TOUR 2: ELEPHANT & TURTLE FLIGHT
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Total direct distance
Approx. flying hours
16 hrs (incl. scenic flights)
Mountain and valley flying
Bush strips & wx
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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