5: THE EXCLUSIVE WILDERNESS
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Total direct distance
Approx. flying hours
Bush strips, understanding ATC
Minimal with safety pilot
Moderate 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.
Level of accommodation
Exclusive lodges, 4 - 5 star
Suitability for partners
Very scenic and lots of ground activities, perfect for a
couple or also flying partners.
Botswana, home to the San Bushman and land of the
famous Okavango Delta. Teaming with wildlife, there's hardly a
better place to experience real deep bush country. Exclusivity is
the essence of this trip, as you'll be accommodated in luxury camps
and guided through the bush by very knowledgeable game rangers. Game
viewing is enjoyed entirely by yourselves and only a handful of
others, unlike the hordes scrambling for a peak in neighbouring
countries. On the other hand, you'll also get to fly over and
overnight at the mighty Victoria Falls, it's thundering waters
testament to the power and beauty inherent in nature.
This trip is geared towards those that enjoy exclusivity and luxury,
and want the most out of every minute, while not wanting to
compromise on the rawness of the African beat.
Pilanesberg is your first customs & immigration stop as you start
your journey, after which you check into Botswana a short hop over the
border in Gaberone. Soon enough you'll be out of radio coverage, flying
over the massive expanse of the Kalahari Desert. The first night will be
spent at the campfire of a bush lodge in the Kalahari. You'll also have
the option to join a captivating tour with the San Bushman, on which
they'll show off their hunting techniques and survival skills.
Day 2 & 3:
During your morning flight you may get to see the migrating Zebra
and Wildebeest from the Makgadikgadi Pans into the bush (or vice versa),
a monumental sight, especially from above. Maun is the capital of the
district, and probably one of the busiest bushplane airports on the
continent. The apron is packed with C206's, Caravans (C208), Norman
Islanders and Skyvans. These aircraft service the camps in the Okavango
and surrounds, an area otherwise inaccessible without a boat. After
refuelling it's time to really keep a lookout for animals as you're now
over the Okavango Delta, a massive inland maze of waterways teaming with
wildlife. This is one of Africa's premier destinations.
Over two days and nights in the Okavango Camp you will get to learn a
lot about the animals around you, as the knowledgeable guide tracks and
finds the more impressive game. Game viewing is done by 4x4, Makoro
(dug-out canoe), or if you wish then even on foot, a somewhat chilling
experience when suddenly confronted by a lion. But no fear, the game
ranger knows exactly what he's doing, and such encounters make for
interesting stories around the campfire at night.
This day is the highlight as far as the flying goes. From the
Okavango you fly over the Linyanti and Savuti area, and eventually meet
up with the Chobe River. Following this river low-level you will get to
see massive breeding herds of elephant, hippos, crocodiles, and a myriad
of other wildlife. You'll need to check out of Botswana at Kasane, as
you're going to overnight on the Zambian side of the Victoria Falls.
These are visible from a distance as "smoke" on the horizon (hence the
local name, Mosi-oa-Tunya, "the smoke that thunders"). After some orbits
overhead the Falls you'll land at Livingstone and transfer to the hotel
to enjoy the Falls from the ground. Best rent a raincoat as you'll soon
enough experience the drenching effect of that "smoke".
Day 5 & 6:
Departing Livingstone it would be worth asking ATC to route over the
Falls one last time, after which you fly back direction Botswana along
the Zambezi River. Skirting the border of Zimbabwe your next technical
stop is Francistown, and from there you follow the Shashe Riverbed
low-level down to the Mashatu Game Reserve.
Mashatu is one of those underrated and unfamiliar Game Reserves which
should form part of anybody's itinerary when in the area. Famous for
it's leopard and wild dog, a mesmerizing landscape and yet again the
game rangers who's knowledge will captivate you, this is a great place
to relax and spend the last two nights of your tour.
Within a minute of taking off from Mashatu you'll be crossing the
Limpopo River, the border to South Africa. After clearing immigration at
Polokwane you'll have the option to detour to the Blyde River Canyon,
after which it's a relatively short flight back to Pretoria.