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African Fly-in Safaris

Imagine an African fly-in safari - flying in a small bush plane over the Serengeti or Kruger National Park, or wilder places like the Luangwa Valley. Way below you’ll spot wildlife such as elephant, hippo and giraffe. All the while you’ll watch the patterns of clouds on expansive savannah plains, and follow the twisting, turning course of great rivers like the Zambezi. Fly-in safaris can really enhance your holiday. They offer a convenient, comfortable means of travel to different destinations, either within one country or between different countries. Most safari destinations have a well-run network of routes that can land right in the heart of the bush. Some lodges even have their own private airstrip.

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6 Questions About Fly-in Safaris

 
 

6 Questions About Fly-in Safaris

Answered by Sue Watt

Why should I choose a fly-in safari?

“A fly-in safari can be the ideal way to make the most of your holiday in Africa. Many of the most popular countries for safari destinations are vast, countries such as Namibia, South Africa or Tanzania. Hopping from one place to another by air allows you more time to explore the places you really want to see. Domestic airlines and bush-flight companies have been offering these services for years, and most are very smooth operators. But it’s more than a convenience. There’s the comfort factor in avoiding long, tiring journeys by road, particularly when the infrastructure might be poor. There are enough bumpy drives on safari itself. There’s a real romance and excitement about flying in too. Feeling that sensation of flying over spectacular scenery, and getting a sense of the topography and the scale of where you’re staying. Descending over wide-open savannah. Doing a quick flypast to clear elephant, zebra or impala off the airstrip. Then landing to be greeted by your guide, ready to take you on safari. It’s the perfect start to a trip in the bush!”

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Which countries are mostly geared to fly-in safaris?

“Most safari destinations will offer fly-in safaris, either with scheduled flights to main national parks, or private charter flights if your destination is less visited. Botswana is prime fly-in country. Short flights are offered between vastly different environments, from the Okavango Delta’s floods to the dry Kalahari plains, avoiding drives on difficult terrain. Zimbabwe too is a great fly-in option. It has the mighty Zambezi in Mana Pools NP, and the mesmerizing, sea-like Lake Kariba. There’s also the raw, remote Gonarezhou NP in the south, and the majestic Victoria Falls (Vic Falls). Zambia has good options too, covering South and North Luangwa national parks, the Lower Zambezi NP, and Livingstone for Vic Falls. Or combine a fly-in tour to the wilds of Zambia’s Luangwa Valley, with some island time – pop over Lake Malawi to Likoma Island for beachside respite. South Africa also combines well with other countries. You can include Kruger NP and Cape Town with Vic Falls, Chobe NP and other destinations. Kenya is an excellent fly-in destination with its popular national parks and the Indian Ocean coastline. Similarly, in Tanzania, fly-in safaris can take you to the famous Serengeti on the Northern Circuit, and remote Ruaha NP in the south. Then it’s a short hop to Zanzibar.”

2

What type of aircraft will I fly in and are they safe?

“The aircraft vary depending on your destination and whether you’re flying by private charter. Many bush airstrips are quite ‘rustic’ (often dirt or gravel) and unsuitable for landing larger planes. My soul sings when I get to an airstrip and there’s a tiny Cessna 206 waiting for me, with just enough room for the pilot and four passengers. They’re my very favorite type of bush flight! Cessna Caravans are good workhorses and a popular choice for flight companies, taking about 12 passengers. Then there are bigger planes like the De Havilland Dash that seat between 35 to 52 passengers. Whichever plane is waiting on the runway/airstrip, you’ll get a full safety briefing from the pilot and all have seatbelts you must wear. This is a very safe way of traveling. Incidents are extremely rare.”

3

What luggage restrictions are there on a fly-in safari?

“Luggage space can be severely limited on bush flights. The Cessna 206 has just a small compartment under the seats, for example, and bags are often squashed in to fit inside. The rule of thumb is to take soft duffle bags rather than hard-framed bags with wheels. Some services are very strict about the weight limits they impose and will include your hand luggage and even jackets in the total. As a rough guide, most companies allow around 15kg per person. But check with your tour company and watch out for caveats (e.g. non-fee-paying children may have no baggage allowance). Don’t be surprised if an airline asks your personal weight either. This is often done so that they can balance the smaller planes safely. If you have excess luggage, you can sometimes pay for a freight seat on safari routes. This is cheaper than a second seat, but you’ll need to do this in advance. Bearing in mind that most lodges and camps on safari offer a laundry service, the trick is to pack light and wash often.”

4

What are the typical costs of a fly-in safari?

“Most tour operators offer packages that include your bush flights. Fly-in safaris aren’t limited to luxury holidays and it’s difficult to generalize about the price of a fly-in safari. So much depends on the country you’re visiting, whether the parks are on a scheduled route or whether you need a private charter. Other factors are the distances involved, your level of accommodation and how many ‘hops’ you’ll be taking by air. In Botswana, prices might range from US$450 per person per day for a budget fly-in safari to around US$1350 per person a day for a luxury option. In comparison, prices for midrange fly-in holidays in Kenya start from around US$300 per person per day. In Namibia you’re looking at around US$600 per person per day. This is for a safari in your own private plane for between two and six guests, with an amazing view over Namibia’s spectacular landscapes.”

5

What should I consider when choosing a fly-in safari?

“The first factors to consider are your budget and the time you have available for your trip. Fly-in safaris are great for travelers who are short on time. It’s also worth deciding whether you want to experience more of a country than just the specific destinations you would be flying into. Driving from place to place gives a better sense of a country, its people and culture than flying over it. This is particularly so in somewhere like Rwanda, with its spectacular scenery, good roads and lively local scene as you pass by. If you suffer badly from motion sickness or are a nervous flyer, a fly-in safari might not be the most suitable option for you. Bush planes can be small and bumpy, and aren’t always conducive to a smooth flying experience. They also often stop at other bush airstrips on the way to yours, meaning several take-offs and landings. Having said all that, they are also an exciting experience and can really add to your safari adventure. On some of the smaller planes, you can even sit alongside the pilot.”

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