Sabi Sabi offers one of the best safari experiences in Africa but what do you do between safaris? Well, how about a helicopter flip over the 3rd largest canyon in the world. The Blyde River Canyon is absolutely beautiful and I was fortunate enough to join some guests for the 2-hour flight.
The excitement really kicked in as we left the lodge to head to the airstrip where ‘Seasons in Africa’ would come pick us up in the helicopter. I had a silly grin stuck to my face the whole morning and as we approached the airstrip it only got bigger. My camera was packed and ready for a bird’s eye view on the beautiful area where we live. On arrival the pilot, Bertus, was waiting and he welcomed us onto the chopper, gave us a quick brief, shut all the doors and started the engine. By now I had broken out into cold sweat as the adrenalin coursed through my veins, this was my first time up in a helicopter and wasn’t sure what to expect.
The engine roared as the rotors spun so fast above us that I could hardly see them. Suddenly I felt my stomach make a quick dash towards my rear end as the chopper effortlessly lifted off the tarmac and moved off into the air. As we got up we could see and elephants moving through the bush feeding and what a sight is was. These huge creatures looked dwarfed by the height we had already climbed to.
We flew over the rural towns as we made our way towards the Drakensberg mountain range. As we approached this glorious mountain range there was a clear band of green running all the way along the foot of the range. The pilots voice came through the headphones explain a little bit about the range and the green belt that we were seeing. He explained that it was classified as the largest man made forest in the world. The pine and blue gum trees stretched for as far as the eye could see and the pilot said that the full length of the forest was about 1500km. We also could see the aftermath of a mudslide that had moved huge amount of soil down the mountain leaving a definitive scar on its beautiful exterior.
The scenery went from flat to magnificent in the shortest amount of time. The mountains loomed around us as the chopper effortlessly moved through the air. The pilot began to beeline it straight towards a gap between two peaks and slipped through with ease but all of us were bracing for impact, sure that we were not going to fit. The mountains opened up as we entered the Blyde River Canyon and we saw the Blyde dam. The river had cut its way through the hard rock over millions of years and I kept thinking just how much power the water had to cut through all that rock.
We were greeted by waterfalls and rapids, viewed wild horses on the top of the escarpment and even got to see South Africa’s oldest power station. After about an hour in the air we set down on the edge of the escarpment looking down over the Lowveld and were treated to some lunch and sparkling wine. After a bite to eat, we hopped back in for the last bit of sight seeing over the panorama tour as we passed over ‘God’s Window’, Mac Mac falls and the cascades before heading back towards the reserve.
There was one last treat as the pilot made a small detour and took us over the Sabi River. As we cruised at 1500 feet above the river we watched as an elephant herd was leaving the water, hippos stared up at us, and some grump old buffalo snorted at this strange noisy bird above them. What an amazing feeling to soar over the majesty of Africa, staring down at its inhabitants, what an absolute pleasure to able to experience this!