Mike Unwin
United Kingdom GB
Mar 22, 2015 March 22, 2015

Mike is an award winning wildlife writer, editor of Travel Zambia magazine and author of the Bradt Guide to Southern African Wildlife.

Category: Best Kept Safari Secrets

A microlight flight offers a thrilling aerial perspective on the wildlife of Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park, revealing both its wildlife and its unique geography.

John Coppinger’s voice crackled in my headphones as he pointed out a sun-cracked crescent of clay down to our left. “That’s part of the Luangwa’s  original course,” He explained. “Hang on, I’ll show you.” I held my breath and clutched my camera as we banked in a low pass over Tafika camp. The microlight’s angular shadow swept ahead of us downriver, sending crocodiles scrambling for the water. A saddle-billed stork hung for a second in our flight path before lurching away with ponderous wing beats.

Then suddenly John whisked us up again, and the valley rolled out in pin-sharp detail below. Away from the river I could make out buffalo filtering through the mopane woodland like ants through broccoli and a family party of elephants swinging in ear-flapping single file through the long grass.  A serpentine ribbon of sand traced the course of Luangwa to the horizon, its dry-season flow reduced to a broken chain of pools and channels that winked in the dawn light.

Tafika is the only safari lodge in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park to offer microlight flights. Twenty minutes in the air with lodge owner John Coppinger  – who also uses his microlight to conduct game counts and anti-poaching patrols – gives a thrilling perspective on this fabulous landscape. I could have stayed up there until the fuel ran out. Grab the chance if you get it.