I’m not the world’s most natural flyer. Probably because I wasn’t born with wings and have the eyesight of a bat. But always being up for trying anything once (except bungee jumping, that’s a firm no), I decided that going microlighting on our latest trip to South Africa could be rather fun. And if not fun, at least it would be a unique way to see a bit more of the country.
At 3,000 feet and surrounded by thin air, I was cursing my curiousness. There was absolutely nothing to the left of me except a long drop down to earth, and despite being squashed in beside my pilot Rowena from Leading Edge Flight School, I felt as if I was being tossed about like an Autumn leaf in the wind. Never have I felt so small and insignificant. I asked the amateur question: is it always this turbulent? She laughed in delight and told me it was in fact a very calm day.
Peter and I were microlighting over the Blyde River Canyon, the third largest in the world. We’d found it impressive at ground level the day before, but from up here it was something else entirely.
Our take off from the small town of Hoedspruit at the foot of the Klein Drakensberg Mountains had been bumpy but uneventful, and before long we were gliding over big five game territory, meandering rivers lined with citrus farms, and of course the canyon itself.
We got to look the part in our headsets, and felt like proper pilots as we chattered over the radio.
The canyon looked very different from above, but we were able to make out the famous landforms of the ‘Three Rondavels’ as well as flying over the reservoir dam and spotting the tiny tourists far beneath us.
It was then that an eagle came to join us. I’d love to say I looked him in the eye as we soared along the canyon walls, but I was too busy holding on tight and trying not to drop my camera out of the microlight for that to have happened. Still, it was a privilege to be up there with the king of the skies, and we flew in tandem for several special minutes before we had to turn back before we ran out of fuel.
We passed over the Klaserie Nature Reserve on the way home to Hoedspruit and I was delighted to spot elephants, rhino and even some hippos from our lofty perch. It’s a lot easier to spot wildlife from above, so an aerial safari is certainly something to throw into the mix when planning your next African adventure.
Flying in a microlight was a little scary to begin with, being so exposed to the elements in such a tiny contraption. However the views, the adrenaline and the kudos for giving it a go far outweighed any irrational fear on my part. I’d do it again in a heartbeat, maybe next time for a whole day, and this time with a picnic!