April 3

Up In The Air – Helicopter Over Africa

April 3, 2012

The word helicopter is adapted from the French hélicoptère, coined by Gustave de Ponton d’Amecourt in 1861, which originates from the Greek helix/helik- (ἕλιξ) = “twisted, curved”, and pteron (πτερόν) = “wing”.

Many of us grow up around helicopters.

They’re those little toy choppers we’re given for birthdays as a kid, those cool aircrafts soldiers jump out of in war films like Forest Gump and Black Hawk Down, those things we see soaring over us carrying Presidents and rockstars. But few of us ever actually get to ride in one.

For my father’s 50th birthday, he sent my mom and me up in one. Just us, he stayed on the ground. Perhaps it wasn’t as sweet a gesture as it seems and he was just trying to scare the heck out of us for kicks, but we were thrilled. We flew in a genuine Vietnam Huey helicopter that had seen action in Vietnam in the 60s.

We did the Combat Mission Tour and the chopper took us from the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town along the shores of the West Coast and back, over the ocean and the sand dunes. Simulating a combat mission, it would dip as low as possible, the wind zipping past our ears and the adrenalin pumping in our veins. Then it’d soar back up and twist on its side and dip again. What a rush!

Table Mountain view
Up, up and away

A helicopter trip is definitely something to add to the Bucket List. Read on for some great destinations and lodges in Africa to experience your flight at. Contact one of our travel experts to find out how to combine your chopper adventure with other great destinations and lodges in an itinerary that suits your needs, interests and budget. Africa offers some unbeatable views. Just take a look!

Victoria Falls by helicopter
Victoria Falls

Where To Fly

There’s nothing quite like soaring over Africa in a helicopter. See rivers, waterfalls and even big game! Stop off on a cliff face for an afternoon picnic (as you do) or take a helicopter transfer to your next destination. Many of the safari lodges we recommend on our website offer helicopter flights as an activity, but there are some of our favourite. Contact us for more information.

Fly over Victoria Falls

This is “The Flight of Angels”. This term, used to describe flights over and around Victoria Falls, originated from the words David Livingstone uttered when he first documented discovering the falls: “Scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by Angels in Their Flight”. From a flight over the Falls you can see the meandering Zambezi River, hundreds of islands with wildlife and the great drop as the Zambezi’s water plummets off the cliff of Victoria Falls.

Take a look at this tour for ideas on combining a stay at Vic Falls for your heli flip and other great southern African destinations. Our 10-day Cape Town, Kruger National Park and Victoria Falls Tour combines these three destinations into one itinerary. In Victoria Falls, you have a choice of staying at either the Zambezi Sun or David Livingstone Safari Lodge & Spa for two nights, where you can enjoy a thrilling helicopter flip over the mighty Victoria Falls, one of the world’s seven natural wonders.

This is definitely one for the more adventurous soul!

Fly Over Mpumalanga

  • Cybele Forest Lodge

Cybele is situated between White River and Hazyview, in the heart of Mpumalanga on three hundred acres of African paradise, living forest, mountains and meadows. It is 40 km from the Phabeni Gate of Kruger National Park and very close to the Private Game Reserves in the Sabi Sand area.

Cybele have several great helicopter adventures for you to go on and experience different views and thrills. Be sure to take your camera with you! It’s a unique way to see this part of South Africa.

  • On their Mountain Magic flight, the chopper will swoop over gorges and through lush valleys, hover above rivers and waterfalls; continue through God’s Window along the beautiful, dramatic rock formations of Blyde River Canyon and the Three Rondavels. You’ll land on a mountain for breakfast, brunch or lunch and sparkling wine. Look out for Mountain Reedbuck and eagles overhead.
  • Cybele’s Waterfall Wonder flight goes over the Drakensberg to Graskop, God’s Window, Lisbon and Berlin Falls. The Pilgrims Pioneer flight goes over attractions such as God’s Window and Mac-Mac Falls, landing at Pilgrim’s Rest, where you can enjoy a drink at the historic Royal Hotel and explore the gold mining town before returning. On the Mac-Mac & Back trip you fly over the forests to Mac-Mac Falls, returning down the river valley.
  • Alternatively, the Winged Safari is a great spin on the regular safari. Fly a few hundred feet above the trees into the heart of Africa. Land at a remote clearing in the bush with a Land Rover and qualified game ranger waiting for you. You’ll go on a game drive – this is Big 5 country – and then enjoy breakfast, before flying back to the hotel.
Fly over waterfalls
Chasing waterfalls at Cybele

 Fly over the Okavango Delta

We can tailor-make your Botswana itinerary to include helicopter tours over the Okavango Delta – a must! Via helicopter, you can explore the more remote areas of the Okavango system and follow one of the main tributaries that supply the Delta with its life source.

There are several helicopter (as well as fixed wing, if you’d prefer) operators – such as Helicopter Horizons, Moremi Air and Cloud 9 – in the country and great safari lodges we recommend staying at. Wilderness Safaris’ Botswana lodges are top-notch and luxurious – take a look here. For other great places to stay in Botswana as a base for your helicopter flip, take a look at out website.

When booking with Rhino Africa there are many opportunities to opt for a helicopter transfer instead of going from lodge to lodge or airport to lodge by vehicle or small plane. Be sure to let us know when planning your safari with us if you’d prefer this more scenic mode of transfer, allowing you to take in other views of the region you’re travelling to.

Fly over the Kalahari

Tswalu Kalahari is a favourite of ours as its situated in the very unique and vast Kalahari desert, but offers luxury accommodation. How does a helicopter ride over Tswalu, the largest private game reserve in South Africa, with its vast open expanses of Kalahari desert landscape sound?

Tswalu runs a rhino conservation project that guests can get involved in between April and September, for groups of between 4 to 8 people. You will stay in the luxurious yet intimate private home of the Oppenheimer family with a group of friends or family and spend your time tracking, catching and micro-chipping rhinos. It’s a real eye-opener. Also, you get to experience a thrilling helicopter ride back to the lodge, in time for a superb supper prepared by their private chef.

Contact us for more information and to book a special Tswalu trip.

Fly to Grootbos

Grootbos has their own helicopter landing strip. You can take a scenic half an hour flight from Cape Town to Grootbos and enjoy the spectacular scenic route along the Cape Whale Coast. If you’re interested in the this part of the Western Cape, contact us and we can book you a stay at Grootbos and other luxury Whale and Garden Route lodges that includes a scenic helicopter flight.

Helicopter transfer to Grootbos

For more information about this exciting activity and which destinations in Africa to experience your helicopter flight in, contact one of our expert travel consultants and we’ll help you plan the ideal travel itinerary to suit your needs, interests and budget.


okavango delta, tswalu kalahari, Victoria Falls

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About the author 

Tamlin Wightman

Tamlin has been exploring, writing about and photographing Africa ever since her first job as a photojournalist for Getaway Magazine. She's lived on an island, eaten with lions, sailed catamarans in the Indian Ocean, tracked wild dogs with Kinglsey Holgate, and white water rafted down the Zambezi and has kept just about every airplane ticket that has crossed her hands.

  • @rhinoafrica you forgot Heli safaris in Kenya! We also do DR Congo, Ethiopia and TZ! 😉 #safari #Africa

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