The Best African Lodges for Helicopter Flights

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Felix

Senior Africa Travel Designer

One of the most exciting developments in Africa over the last 10 years has been the prevalence of helicopters that can be used for both transfers between camps as well as for scenic flights over some of the continent’s most remote and beautiful areas. The transfers between camps are great for reducing transfer times and also avoid the stops that light aircraft transfers often entail, as well as giving you an opportunity for some additional game viewing thanks to the low-level flying that the helicopter transfers involve. However, it is the scenic flights that really highlight the advantage of helicopters’ prevalence in Africa, with the chance to explore and even set down in destinations that cannot be accessed by road or fixed-wing aircraft. Experienced guides, often those who have pioneered the exploration of these areas will massively enhance your experience and ensure your time exploring Africa from the sky is a highlight of your trip. Here are our top 5 lodges across Africa to head to for the ultimate in helicopter exploration.

AndBeyond-helicopter

1. andBeyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, Sossusvei, Namibia

Nestled away to the east of the iconic red sand dunes of Sossusvlei, andBeyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge is undoubtedly one of Namibia’s best lodges and a superb base for exploring this remarkable corner of the country. Chief amongst the unique experiences they offer is the chance to take to the skies and explore these other-worldly landscapes by helicopter. There is a heli permanently based at the lodge meaning all guests will have the opportunity to enjoy a scenic flight, with the experience now complimentary for stays of three nights or longer. The chance to see the razor-backed dunes from above, as well as the series of vleis and canyons for which the area is known is amazing and one not to be missed. You will also be able to see the desert plains studded with “fairy circles”, watch as stately oryx and springbok charge over the dunes and marvel at the endless landscapes that roll out in front of you. Longer flights include a visit to the coast to see seal colonies and even the shipwrecks further up the Skeleton Coast.

2. Tubu Tree Camp, Okavango Delta, Botswana

Botswana is one of the prime destinations to enjoy helicopter flights thanks to the amazing team at Helicopter Horizons. Offering transfers around the country, as well as having helicopters based at various camps in the Okavango Delta, they have an almost endless array of options to choose from, but for us Tubu Tree Camp is one of the prime destinations from which to enjoy heli flights. Set on the vast expanse of Hunda Island in the western part of the delta, this is a premier area for predator and elephant spotting, with your eagle-eyed pilot able to spot all manner of wildlife as you fly low across the island. Add to this the chance to visit local villages, elephant sanctuaries and even take a trip up in to the mystical Tsodilo Hills, the range of experiences helis in Botswana have opened up has made this already first class safari destination a wonderfully diverse and exciting place to be. Flights here are always private allowing you to enjoy the experience to the full and we can even arrange set downs with champagne and canapés as a way to round off the day.

Helicopter Flight - Okavango Delta

3. Ol Malo Lodge and Ol Malo House, Laikipia, Kenya

The ultimate in African helicopter experiences and perhaps the most unique on the whole planet, the helicopter experiences from the Ol Malo family of lodges are truly unique and take you in to areas seen by just a handful of people worldwide. Flights are enjoyed in the company of Andrew Francombe who has lived at Ol Malo all his life and is one of the pioneers of helicopter tourism in Kenya. The signature flight is a day trip up in to the Suguta Valley, a land of rolling sand dunes, extinct volcanoes, canyons that cut a swathe through the terrain and the chance to see thousands of flamingos on the shoreline of Lake Logipi. Only accessible by helicopter, this is one of the most remarkable areas anywhere in Africa and a trip here is a truly life-affirming experience. On the way back to camp you will fly along the shores of Lake Turkana, picking out a remote spot to swim and enjoy drinks before continuing your exploration by air. Truly, one of the most incredible experiences to be had anywhere in Africa and worth the journey to Ol Malo in itself.

4. Leopard Hills Private Game Lodge, Sabi Sand, South Africa

Often overlooked as a destination from which to enjoy helicopter trips, Leopard Hills, one of the best lodge in South Africa’s famed Sabi Sand Wildtuin, offers easy access to the stunning Blyde River Canyon and Panorama Route region. Done either as part of your transfer to the lodge, or as a day trip after your morning safari, you will soar over the northernmost escarpment of the Drakensberg Mountains and enjoy seeing this spectacular landscape from above. Fly along the rim of the canyon, see waterfalls from above and even land for a picnic lunch on a remote mountain top. A truly wonderful way to pass some time on safari and a chance to see a rarely explored but utterly captivating part of South Africa.

Leopard Hills Helicopter

5. Singita Kwitonda, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

Rwanda is called the “Land of a Thousand Hills” for good reason, with lush forested peaks rising everywhere that you look, especially on the road between Kigali and the Volcanoes National Park – the location for its signature gorilla trekking experiences. Until the incursion of luxury safari lodges in to Rwanda, the only way to travel between the two was a scenic 3 hour road transfer. However, with the presence of a number of luxury brands, most notably Singita, in to the country, helicopter transfers are now a feature of many itineraries and a superb way to see the country from a different perspective. As you soar above the towering green mountain tops, gaze into seemingly endless valleys, full of hidden mysteries and tiny villages, you get a sense of just how unique this tiny country is. Of course, the time saving that these transfers offer is a huge bonus as well and will allow you to avoid overnight stays in Kigali if the itinerary is put together properly.

Helicopter flights are a wonderful way to enhance any safari experience – the stunning perspectives on the landscapes you have been exploring on foot and by vehicle need to be seen to be believed and the insights from the pilots in to what you are seeing makes them a truly memorable experience.

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