Home > Africa > Up in the air: Botswana from above

Up in the air: Botswana from above

From the A380 and Frankfurt Airport to boarding the Cessna 208B Grand Caravan at Kasane Airport, Botswana.

We’ve flown from Frankfurt to Johanneburg on Lufthansa’s massive A380, the largest aircraft in the world (and no, it may be bigger, but there’s no extra leg space in economy … unfortunately), with a South African Airways A319 to Victoria Falls International Airport and now in Kasane we board a Cessna 208B Grand Caravan, belonging to Sefofane Air, one of the largest and best airlines operating in the bushes of Southern Africa. Their slogan matches their service perfectly: “Connecting you to the wilderness.” With each trip we make, I notice the planes are getting smaller and smaller. (Our next flight between camps in the Delta will be on a six-seater Cessna 206, but we don’t know this yet.)

The caffeine- and sandwich-free cafe at Kasane Airport.

Kasane airport is tiny but professional and friendly with a check-in area, café and not much else. We’re on the fringe of Chobe National Park but the only wildlife close by are the dead bodies of these huge hard-backed beetles that are harmless but also clueless – they just don’t seem to understand that their bodies weren’t made to climb vertically but they still try to clamber up walls, knocking themselves out and putting themselves in comas. The ones that don’t get concussion spend at least an hour on their backs trying to get upright again!

The café also amuses me – they’re out of coffee, tea and sandwiches. “I had sandwiches yesterday but they’re gone now,” sighs the smiling lady behind the counter. Famished after our early start we knock back a pizza slice and chocolate bar. Paying for our “lunch” is also a tricky matter as we have no local Botswanan pulas but she’s flexible and lets us pay in US dollars. Craving a caffeine fix, we try again to get some coffee, offering our coffee sachets from the hotel in exchange for some hot water … no chance, the kettle’s broken and there’s no milk! 🙂 It’s Africa, I’m on holiday and as they say in Swahili “Hakuna Matata” (No worries).

The waiting area soon fills up with well-heeled tourists (some in designer safari gear, some decked out in everything that would attract every single wild animal in the vicinity) and there’s an air of suspense as passengers hang around wondering which plane sitting on the runway will take them to their camp. Everyone is united by the thrill of the unknown – what’s waiting at the end of that plane ride.

We check in our luggage –as the planes are small there is a strict limit of 20 kg per passenger but unlike Ryanair, they’re not going to charge you an extra EUR 15 per kilo, if you’re over the 20-kilo limit you’ll have to buy an extra seat. And there’s no suitcase or trolleys are allowed … not that you’re going to be able to wheel a suitcase around the bush anyway! We’re handed our handwritten boarding passes which make a nice change from the standard eticket boarding cards which we’re going to keep as a “collector’s item”. Our 90-minute flight to Hunda is one of the longer ones in the Delta and we’ll drop off, and pick up, some passengers along the way.

The best seat and view on board.

I nab the cockpit seat next to the pilot, Joel from Kenya, who’s one of the more experienced pilots and has been flying in the Delta for two years. It’s rainy season now (January) so we’ll stay below the clouds, giving us a bird eye’s view of the fantastic landscape and elephants and giraffes below. Today there are a few storms lurking on the distant horizon but, luckily, nothing coming in our direction. These bush flights are on a tight schedule and I can’t help but think that coordinating the routes, aircraft and passengers (plus the supplies which they bring to the camps) and dealing with the ever unpredictable weather, without compromising on safety must be a bit of a headache. But Sefofane Air, and Joel, makes it look effortless.

View of Chobe National Park from above and "emergency" landing strip.

There are plenty of landing strips scattered around the bush so there are plenty of options for “emergency” landings if necessary to dodge a storm. The flights in the Delta can get a little on the bumpy side during the hot dry months which is why the flights are often earlier in the morning to avoid the hot rising air. From above, the aerial view is breathtaking … we fly over the Chobe National Park and zigzag along the mighty Zambezi River. The landscape is a patchwork quilt of luscious grass, flat-topped African trees, sandy airstrips and after 30-minutes we spot the swamps of the Delta. Flying in Botswana is not only the most practical, comfortable and quickest way to get from A to B, but it’s also like a long private sightseeing tour with the fantastic chance to see the country from above.

Finally ... we reach the swamps, lagoons and waterways of the Okavango Delta.

  1. February 18, 2011 at 5:00 am

    i love it

  2. April 1, 2011 at 8:50 am

    Lovely post. I hope you don’t mind that I’ve linked to it from our Botswana page. I run South Africa Travel Online, and our readers love reading these types of blog entries.

    • April 8, 2011 at 2:20 pm

      Dear Karen,

      Thank you for your comment and I am more than happy that you are linking my blog to your site! I’m more than happy to share my experience with your readers. Let me know if I can help you any further!

  1. February 27, 2011 at 10:24 pm

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