I was 23 years old when I moved to Tanzania – Africa. Shortly after I arrived I was introduced to flying small aircraft in the bush. Although it wasn’t a self-fly safari, it was surely something spectacular to experience. Watching Africa from the sky and landing at a bush airstrip is a thrilling experience.
I waited for the Cessna 206 to land at the airstrip. A couple of guests and myself would be flown out to the bush. The pilot pulled out a scale, weighing all luggage and asking passengers’ weight. I was told the importance and with each following trip, I learned something new. Finally, we took off, and I saw the African continent below me. Rolling hills with tea-plantations, meandering rivers, little villages with cattle kraals, rugged mountains, open plains, and the bush. Roads leading from one village to another, game trails like little lines on the earth, ending as suddenly as they would start. Leaving me to wonder about their actual purpose. Scorched black land with perfect white silhouettes of ash. A fading remembrance of fallen and burned trees. The white silhouette slowly being windblown and washed away by rain, leaving behind a black stump.
As we approached the bush airstrip, we descended, and more and more we could make out details. The shrubby vegetation on the plains, hippos in the bend of the river, and animals dotted around the bush. So much to see, but gliding past it so quickly.
As we squared up for the final approach, we noticed a herd of elephants at the start of the runway. My adrenaline went up. Did we have to scare them off before landing? Could we land at all? But our pilot loved the experience and altered the flaps one more time for landing. The elephants, noticing the oncoming monster, started scrambling for the bush. It felt like they could pluck us out of the air as we passed over their heads, but nothing happened. Needless to say, we landed safely.
With each flight, I started loving this experience more and more. And only a few years later I would have the opportunity to fly over the bush at low altitude. Something even more exciting and exhilarating, about which I will write another time. An Air Safari is a unique experience. And if you are in possession of a PPL or similar license, I definitely recommended putting one high on your bucket list.
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