TOUR 2: ELEPHANT & TURTLE FLIGHT

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Duration 8 days
Total direct distance 1100 nm
Approx. flying hours 16 hrs (incl. scenic flights)

Difficulty level

Relatively technical
Mountain and valley flying
Bush strips & wx

Experience required Minimal with safety pilot
Very confident if self-guided
Best time of year Possible year round
Best April - October (dry season) although during the wet season it's mainly isolated TS to contend with.
Best for turtle breeding between November - February
Level of accommodation Comfortable guest houses and lodges, 3 - 4 star
Suitability for partners Very scenic and lots of ground activities, great for flying or non-flying partners
Price On request

A scenic trip that takes in some of the "off-the-beaten-track" gems of South Africa. Perfect for pilot and partner (flying buddy) who don't have too much time on their hands, but want to experience some fantastic flying, as well as some of the best wildlife the country has to offer (land and sea based). Recommended with safety pilot as it works out somewhat cheaper, requires some technical flying skills, and such safety pilot knows of many scenic detours and interesting landing strips en-route.

Day 1:
We depart Wonderboom Airport in Pretoria, and head to numerous strips and dirt tracks on which we practice some touch 'n go's. As we descend from the Highveld to the Lowveld over the Drakensberg Mountains we route through the Blyde River Canyon (3rd biggest after the Grand and Fish River Canyons) and practice some canyon and mountain flying. Overnight in a game lodge adjoining the Kruger Park, with optional afternoon and / or morning game drives.

Day 2:
Our route South takes us back through the Blyde Canyon, and onto some interesting hilltop airstrips. As we fly over the Kruger Park and adjoining Game Reserves, look out for elephant, hippo, and other large animals visible from the air. The Nelspruit area is a gem for a wide variety of interesting and mostly very technical landing strips. We overnight at Chimp Eden, part of the Jane Goodall Institute, a sanctuary and home to Chimpanzees that have been misplaced from their natural habitat.

Day 3 & 4:
First things first we'll need to file a flight plan as we will be crossing Swaziland on this stretch. Over and through the Swazi Mountains at Piggs Peak, a rural but beautiful countryside passes below. Things flatten out a bit before we reach the Lebombo Mountain Range, across which we're then back in South Africa, descending for landing at Kosi Bay. Here we'll spend 2 nights in a beach camp.
This area is fabulous for snorkelling, scuba diving, and just chilling on the secluded beaches. But it's real claim to fame is that of a breeding ground for the Loggerhead and Leatherback Turtles. During the November - February months there's a good chance of seeing the mother laying eggs, or the new hatchlings scuttling down the beach to reach the relative safety of the ocean, either of which is quite a special and unforgettable experience.

Day 5 & 6:
After take-off we route SW, hugging the shoreline at around 500ft. From this vantage point we should see numerous dolphins, and possibly even whales and sharks down below. We stop at Durban Virginia's airstrip (planted next to and parallel to the beach) for some fuel and a small bite to eat. Further south there is quite a drastic change from developed coastline to a rough, wild and rural paradise. Waterfalls diving straight into the sea, big waves crashing against the rocky shore, cows and goats chilling on the beaches, on first arrival this area always takes a person's breath away - Welcome to the Wild Coast.
The Port St. Johns airfield, an old military strip built for DC3's and the likes, is perched on top of Mount Thesiger. The final approach onto runway 27 is accentuated by a sheer drop-off cliff face of over 1000ft. The 27 threshold is perched on the lip of this cliff-face, making for an interesting, and mostly high, final approach.
There is lots to do in this area, mainly in the form of outdoor activities such as hiking, canoeing, and visiting the waterfalls or beaches in the area. We will take a 4x4 and explore some of the lesser-known areas, and just generally enjoy the Pondo vibe over our 2 night stay. Meals here are a culinary delight.

Day 7:
Flying over the rugged and rural landscape below, the ground slowly rises up to the highest peak of the Drakensberg Mountains, the border to Lesotho. At 11,420ft we'll need to gain quite a bit of altitude if we want to fly along the top of the ridge, a spectacular sight especially when snow-covered during the winter months. The landing at Dragon Peaks is yet again quite technical, it's a one-way in one-way out strip with little room for error, but the previous few days should have prepared you for this one. Overnight in a comfortable log cabin.

Day 8:
We'll fly to the neighbouring El Mirador landing strip for a hearty breakfast before our journey back north. Approaching Jo'burg Special Rules we'll realize just how quiet the skies have been over the past few days, as one is bombarded by position reports from all other aircraft in the area. Skirting the Johannesburg CTR we'll land back at Wonderboom Airport.