A game drive encounter with a lion, rhino or leopard gets the adrenalin pumping and makes a safari one of life’s most exhilarating experiences. Others seek adventure beyond the 4×4. Taking to the air is one of the best ways to quench this thirst for action and South Africa is foremost for adventure holidays.
Our Africa Specialist and frequent visitor to South Africa, Albee Yeend, highlights her favourite airborne activities:
Sky diving over Plettenberg Bay
Located along the Garden Route Plettenberg Bay, locally known as Plett, is a popular playground for the city dwellers of Cape Town. Time your visit in September to coincide with the 60 foot Southern Right Whales who nurse their calves in the warm shallow waters; you’ll also avoid the summer crowds that descend on the town over Christmas and New Year. Whale watching from the shore is spectacular enough but a sky dive allows you to appreciate the enormity of these marine mammals. Once your plane has reached around 10,000 feet you’ll free fall for half a minute before the canopy opens. As you glide down to land look out for breaching dolphins or lobtailing whales.
Base yourself at Kurland Hotel, situated only 19km from Plettenberg Bay which welcomes action seekers and the estate can offer walking, hiking, riding, running, mountain biking, quad biking, tennis, polo tuition and even hosts polo tournaments. There are 12 suites, most of which have loft rooms which have been furnished with children in mind.
Hot air ballooning over the Kapama Game Reserve
Kapama Game Reserve is the largest privately owned game reserve near Kruger National Park where the Big 5 will be found. The area is eminent as a centre for wildlife management and conservation. Of particular note is the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre, which originally started out as a cheetah conservation project in 1990. For thrill-seekers who are averse to over-exertion, hot air ballooning trips offer the perfect solution. Leaving as the sun rises, game can be seen dotting the landscape below as they graze, rest or hunt. Flights last around one hour and are followed by a glass of sparkling wine.
One lodge that can organise such an experience is the family-owned Camp Jabulani with six luxurious and elegant suites. Not only does the camp enjoy an abundance of facilities, it also has its own elephant herd and guests can even go on a unique night safari on elephant back.
Take a helicopter flip over Limpopo Nature Reserves
Limpopo is the most northerly province in South Africa, bordering Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Botswana. As well as national parks, including the renowned Kruger National Park, the area also offers 33 nature reserves rich in wildlife and characterised by low mountains and open savannahs. Swoop over the vast area on an exhilarating helicopter flip. Your skilled pilot will fly so low it will feel like you’re brushing the tree tops or scaling the cliff faces. Although a fast-paced adventure you will still get the opportunity for game viewing and you can catch your breath when you stop off at a remote picnic spot – only accessible by helicopter.
The Observatory, a 4 bedroom house set within the Leobo Private Reserve close to the Waterberg Mountains, boasts its own private helicopter. The house is available on an exclusive-only basis and features a rooftop Jacuzzi, a telescope and adrenaline pumping activities such as sky diving, rock climbing, cross-country Polaris and a crocodile called Steve…
Take a scenic coastal flight over the coast
The South African coastline around Hermanus is famous for whale watching opportunities, with the WWF recognising it as one of the 12 best whale watching spots in the world. See this spectacle on an hour-long flight over Walker Bay and the surrounding Nature Reserve in a light aircraft. Fly over the low cliffs and white sandy beaches dotted with visitors as they watch the Southern Right Whales just metres away from the shore.
For convenience and ultimate comfort stay at Grootbos, a lodge with its own private aircraft, pilots and airstrip allowing for straight forward sightseeing journeys and transfers. A plethora of other activities can be arranged including shark cage diving from a luxury boat with experienced marine biologists. Grootbos also offers riding, guided walks and drives in the reserve, archaeological cave excursions, beach picnics, flower safaris and birding expeditions.
Albee Yeend is Red Savannah’s African safari expert and a Safari Awards judge. Her career in travel began accidently after she fell in love with Africa on safari in Zambia. Since then she has travelled extensively in Africa, running luxury safari camps in Zambia and Botswana before returning to the UK.