The region we’re talking about includes South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique. The region is politically stable and safe for visitors though not all areas may be open for tourism. As is the case anywhere in the world, there are sections of cities that visitors should avoid. Our safari itineraries tend to keep you out of the cities and in Africa’s dramatic wilderness, scenic rural areas, and coasts. Throughout the region you’ll find gracious hosts, friendly people, and an enthusiastic flying community. English is the official language throughout the region (except in Mozambique where Portuguese is spoken). ATC communications are always carried out in English.
SOUTH AFRICA: Hanks Aero Adventures is based in South Africa -- and for good reason. Far from being a Third World country, South Africa has a first world infrastructure and leads the nations of Africa in aviation resources and facilities. Many airlines throughout the continent look to South Africa’s private sector to manage and service their fleets. Standards for aircraft maintenance and pilot training are modeled on the US and British systems. Self-Fly Safaris© begin and end in South Africa, and its rules govern the operation.
BOTSWANA: Arguably Africa’s standard for western-style democracy, Botswana is largely a wilderness area that includes the semi-arid Kalahari Desert and the massive Okavango Delta. Some of the best game viewing in all Africa is found here.
ZAMBIA: The famous Victoria Falls, so named by Dr. David Livingstone, is a crossroads of southern Africa tourism on the northern side of the Zambezi River. Livingstone, Zambia is an excellent stop to view Victoria Falls. The rest of the country is a large area ranging from hilly, woodland bush in the eastern Luangwa Valley, to open savanna along the country’s western border with Angola. The Zambezi River provides some of the finest white-water rafting in the world. Fishing in the lower Zambezi. A deep safari to rarely visited areas.
NAMIBIA: One of the driest and least densely populated areas in the world. Distances between destinations demand an aircraft. Here you’ll find picture-book deserts with huge sand dunes, rugged volcanic terrain, canyons, and isolated coastlines. German is widely spoken in Namibia, though English is universally spoken.
MALAWI: Referred to as the “Warm Heart of Africa” with a benign climate, friendly local people, and lush vegetation that invites relaxation. Lake Malawi, part of the Great Rift Valley, is the focal point of activity surrounded by forest and mountain reserves ideal for walking. Self-Fly Safaris extending as far north as Malawi need a minimum of three weeks and is not recommended for first time safaris.
MOZAMBIQUE: Indian Ocean tropical waters in this former Portuguese colony. Feast on prawns and enjoy snorkeling, scuba diving, and tranquil lagoons. Landing , enroute, parking, visa fees, flight clearances , and fuel costs can be significantly higher in Mozambique than in other southern African countries.
ZIMBABWE: You’ll find abundant wildlife in Zimbabwe’s renowned wilderness areas. The capital, Harare, is a colorful and busy African city. Political uncertainty and sporadic fuel supplies put this country on the back burner in 2002. However, since 2010 conditions have changed in the country and we regularly send clients into the country. The most important consideration is the availablity of fuel, which is now consistently available.
WHAT ROUTE SHOULD I FLY?
Hanks Aero Adventures will help you arrange an excellent itinerary. We’re based in southern Africa and personally inspect the camps we recommend. Through e-mail correspondence with you we’ll develop an itinerary with you before you leave the United States.
We can suggest destinations to complement your special interests. The essence of the arrangement is to fly yourself and your party to destinations around southern Africa. Unique to this area is, of course, African wildlife and the African bush. So, we say, if you’re going to do it, don’t miss bush flying. But there are a lot of other things to do and many possibilities. We know a lot of places to go and we’re happy to make suggestions. What would you like to do? For example...
EXOTIC AIRCRAFT... would you like to fly for an hour or two in an open-cockpit Tiger Moth? Would you and a friend fly Tiger Moths in a formation flight of two? Would you like to do an aerobatic series in a vintage military jet? How about a supersonic ride? Hot air ballooning? It's all available.
SPORTS… Fresh-water fishing, deep-sea fishing, tasting South African wines, set out on foot for several days on a walking /camping safari? Perhaps a canoeing safari with bush camping at night along the riverbank; would you like the bumps and splashes of white water rafting? A swim with dolphins, or Great white sharks? A few days soaring? Sky diving, scuba diving. What else?
CONTEMPORARY AFRICA -- a night or two spent in an African city or town - even a village - afford an entirely different perspective of the African social and cultural landscape as it enters the 21st century. The real thing. No pretenses.
An individual Self-Fly Safari is the quintessential bush flying experience – flying Africa on your own! Do you know another pilot who would also enjoy flying in Africa? Flying with two or more aircraft in a loose formation with friends heightens the pleasure. Many clients have done it this way. Put together a group (not more than 16 people and no more than 8 aircraft) and we will do the rest of the planning for you. The experience is most rewarding without an accompanying guide but Hanks Aero Adventures can provide a pilot/escort in your own aircraft or with a lead aircraft for your group. Call to discuss your specific ideas.
PLANNING YOUR SELF-FLY SAFARI
We recommend a time framework no shorter than two weeks in southern Africa. Three weeks is ideal. At least three days of your Self-Fly Safari time is spent in the Johannesburg area with license validation procedures, flight planning, and safari preparations. A fourth day on the ground allows a more relaxed period for preparations and is recommended for recovering from jet lag. Your Safari departure is on Day 5. More expeditious departures can be arranged under some circumstances.
To help devise a routing that best encompasses your interests, it is important to tell us something about yourself. What are your special interests? Animal viewing, fishing, scuba diving, golf, crafts, hiking, white water rafting, etc. Most of the places we recommend as destinations feature African game, such as elephant, cats, antelope, rhino, birds, etc. But we can also send you to cities, historic sites, and places with more of a cultural focus such as the Great Zimbabwe ruins, an ancient complex of stone enclosures which are the second oldest ruins in Africa (after the pyramids of Egypt).
Also important for us to know is your comfort level. Do you like to really rough it, i.e. no electricity, just kerosene lamps, bucket showers (hot water) and drop toilets (outhouse); or, do you prefer some amenities such as solar electricity, flush toilets, running water; or, do you want first class amenities, which usually means electricity, air conditioning, telephones, and up market accommodations. We often give you a taste of all three types. Wifi may not be available at some remote safari camps. GPS signals are strong and reliable throughout southern Africa.
Africa has done it right when it comes to Safari camps. They are all very good. Except for obvious “camping” destinations they all supply comfortable beds with sheets and blankets, hot showers, flush toilets, good to excellent food, hospitable hosts, and excellent game guides.
Please assess for us your flying abilities. We would appreciate a thumbnail sketch of your flying background including ratings, total time, time in type of aircraft you'd like to use on your Self-Fly Safari, and your comfort-level flying in and out of bush strips. All the landing strips are adequate for the aircraft used but many are sand, dirt, or gravel. There are, of course, tarmac runways that you will use - usually at fuel and Customs/Immigration stops. Most bush airstrips are at least 3,300 feet long (1000 meters) but some bush strips can be challenging. Density altitude and soft fields can dramatically increase your take-off run.
Non-pilots: Spouses and others who are not getting certified to fly South African-registered aircraft have several options during the days of preparations when the others are flying. These include escorted visits to Soweto, the massive black township adjacent to Johannesburg; a "cultural village" where you can comfortably talk with local people and see how they live in modern society; you can visit “Gold Reef City” --a restored gold mine; museums, art galleries, extensive shopping; etc.
WHEN TO GO... SEASONAL CONSIDERATIONS
In the Southern Hemisphere, flying weather tends to be at its best from April through October. These are the autumn and winter months in Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and most of South Africa. We recommend that you plan your Self-Fly Safari for these months. These relatively cool and dry months are also the best season for game viewing. Foliage is less dense, and the scarcity of water helps concentrate the animals at water holes for more prolific game viewing.
Temperatures are cooler. Night and early morning temperatures can drop to 25 degrees Fahrenheit. July is a time when you'll need a down parka, gloves, a scarf, and a hat during early morning and evening game drives. Midday temperatures are comfortable in shirtsleeves. From August onward, the temperatures begin to rise. October can be a sweltering month. It is just before the rains come. The rains tend to begin before the end of October and end in March, but isolated rainy days occur throughout the year.
Cape Town and Coastal regions: During the months April through October, Atlantic storms often bring wind, rain, and chilly weather to the Cape Town area and all along the South African coast. Coastal flying during these months can be problematic. IMC conditions often prevail along the south and west coasts. The Indian ocean coast is somewhat better, as a rule, but not immune from frontal weather systems.
The months of November through March are the Southern Hemisphere's SPRING and SUMMER. Temperature and humidity rises. Very hot temperatures -- sometimes over 100 degrees Fahrenheit -- prevail over many of the prime game viewing areas of Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia and much of South Africa. Some game lodges close during this season. Severe afternoon thunderstorms often build up over the Johannesburg area. Sometimes overcast conditions prevail for days at a time.
Between November and March, we can arrange an “Explorer” package for you through a local flight school. We, however, are not in South Africa and cannot provide the personalized service associated with a Self-Fly Safari.
SAFETY PILOTs, ESCORTED GROUPS, CHARTERS…
Hanks Aero Adventures can provide a pilot/escort in your own aircraft or a lead aircraft for your group.
A safety pilot will serve as PIC on your Self-Fly Safari if you so wish. This option - available at extra cost - should be considered, in advance, by anyone who will feel more comfortable with an experienced hand on board. Elderly pilots, and pilots without a current medical certificate should consider this option.
There are many advantages. A South African copilot eliminates the need to validate your pilot license and the cost of doing so. Nonetheless, you will still have a private aircraft at your disposal, enjoy the same bush experience, view the same wildlife, expand possible destinations, be able to fly in IMC conditions, and have a courteous, knowledgeable, skilled pilot with you at all times. Clients are charged a reasonable daily fee for the copilot’s time and for the costs of lodging and food (at a lower rate than your safari costs).
The presence of an accompanying pilot may necessitate use of a larger aircraft than originally envisioned by the client. For example, three people in a C-172 would overload the aircraft. We would advise you to take a C-182, a C-206, or C-210, perhaps even a twin.
Escorted Groups: Hanks Aero Adventures is experienced in outfitting and staging escorted Self-Fly Safaris. Put together a group (not more than 16 people and no more than 8 aircraft) and we will do the rest of the planning for you. The pilot/escort is knowledgeable about the area in which you are flying, will brief pilots before each day’s flight, facilitate flight planning, take care of payment of fees, and other airport procedures.
Charter: Families or groups interested in flying together may prefer to charter an aircraft large enough to accommodate the whole group such as a C-208 (Cessna Caravan) or a Beech KingAir. Contact us to discuss your specific ideas and requirements.