Post COVID-19, many travellers are looking for the best ways in which to fulfil their future travel dreams whilst remaining reassured that they are travelling safely. High on the priority list is a holiday or vacation that can still take them to the places they always dream about, but without the queues of other people or large crowds once at their destination of choice. Private flying safaris by helicopter or fixed-wing aircraft are perfect for this, and I have curated a selection of hand-picked safaris to inspire you!
Private helicopter safaris:
Private fixed-wing flying safaris:
The obvious way of maintaining privacy is to charter a light aircraft once at the destination, whether in Africa or Asia. This is the most convenient and exciting way to access each desirable region on these continents. Historically, one would arrive at the airport and then share a scheduled charter flight to your lodge of choice as part of a fly-in safari. Now, it makes far more sense to fly privately, and, in fact, to travel entirely privately.
Even if it is just two or three of you, it is still possible to stay in a small villa or safari house in Africa or Asia with just a couple of bedrooms, taking a private vehicle and private guide to explore each area exclusively. One could also explore on foot, on horseback or by bicycle or camel – all these wonderful experiences are possible to do privately.
If the group is four or less, then one will simply user smaller private air charter to make it more cost-effective. For larger groups, I tend to recommend King Airs, PC 12’s or Cessna Grand Caravans.
The best way to expand upon this idea and elevate your holiday is to take a completely private, luxury flying safari (whether by fixed-wing or helicopter) whereby each sector of travel is undertaken in your private aircraft, with your pilot who remains with you for the course of your holiday and often doubles up as your private guide.
Here the experience isn’t just about the locations that you fly to, but the travelling by air itself. The transport becomes part of the journey and you can experience Africa and Asia from the air as well as on the ground!
For those with limited time and a long bucket list, flying safari tours of multiple counties are a very efficient option! This cuts any unnecessary travelling time and serves as an effective way to get a glimpse of the countries that you are interested in, allowing you to decide if you would like to return in the future to the places you enjoyed the most in order to explore in more detail. This makes a lot of sense!
I am such a fan of safaris that incorporate private flying charters, either by fixed-wing or by private helicopter! The best safaris by air can be anything from a week to two weeks or more, depending upon how much time you have. These are my favourite helicopter and fixed-wing safaris and holidays:
Our best helicopter trips take in areas like Lake Turkana, the Suguta Valley and Chalbi Desert in Northern Kenya. This is simply sublime. So few people ever get to visit these far-flung regions and a helicopter allows you to land on the dunes of the Chalbi Desert and explore the area on foot before flying around the summit of the Matthew’s Range.
One can take a day, flying at low level with your expert guide through the Suguta Valley to reach Lake Turkana, ‘The Jade Sea’ as Count Teleki described the lake when he first discovered it. Mount Kenya flights, the Silale Crater and Sibiloi National Park are also options to explore.
Extend your holiday on my ‘Ultimate 10-day Helicopter Safari of Kenya’. This really is the most complete safari one could take, experiencing the best that Kenya has to offer. The highlights include:
So far-flung and the hottest place on earth, but also one of the most dramatic is the Danakil Depression in Ethiopia. This country with its dreadful roads but stunning landscapes lends itself to flying around by helicopter. This is one of the most wonderful and unique journeys!
Helicopter safaris to Ethiopia can, of course, be tailored to your own interests and time available, however my favourite itinerary would take around 8 days and include the Coptic Churches at Lalibela, the rock-hewn churches of the Tigray region and Gheralta Mountains, the stellae monuments at Axum, and the Royal Enclosure of Gondar Castle.
Take a low-level flight over the spectacular Tekeze Gorge and walk in the Simien Mountains with a private guide, spotting gelada baboons and Walia ibex. For those interested in culture, you could also visit the extreme south of Ethiopia close to the border with Kenya to interact with remote Omo Valley tribes that have been isolated from western ways.
Of course, a helicopter flight into the breath-taking Danakil Depression with its salt pans, mined by the Afar people and transported to market by camel train, as well as the colourful and noxious sulphuric springs.
The very best safari that exists in Namibia is a flying safari that explores the Skeleton Coast. One could take four to six days only and explore Skeleton Coast region on its own, or extend it to an ultimate exploration of Namibia of 10 days to be able to see more of this extraordinary and untamed country.
To be able to land on the sand, close to the Namib Desert and to travel through what is considered to be some of Africa’s most breath-taking scenery, right up north to the border of Angola is an absolute privilege and I urge everyone to do this if thinking of travelling to Namibia.
As with heli-safaris, flying safaris by fixed-wing private charters can be tailored to your own requirements. However, if you are seeking inspiration, below are my top recommendations for stunning safaris by privately-chartered, fixed-wing aircraft over Africa!
For the ultimate explorations of Africa, I have curated a 16-day flying safari based upon my top highlights for a safari to Africa. This covers Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana and Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. You visit the Serengeti in northern Tanzania and depending on the time of year this may coincide with the Great Wildebeest Migration (if not, one could swap to the Masai Mara if the Great Migration is occurring there at the time).
You then fly to Lake Tanganyika, which is just beautiful and where you can see the largest group of habituated chimpanzees in Tanzania. In Botswana, you visit the Okavango Delta and the Moremi Reserve which boasts the finest wildlife in the country. You would then go on to explore Linyanti which is renowned for its lion prides, its elephant as well as fabulous wild dog.
In Zambia, you end up at Livingstone, the Zambian side of Victoria Falls. All the accommodation is envisaged being private, staying at small private tented camps and private villas, with all activities taken privately with your private guide.
For those who really want to pull out all the stops and to increase their comfort and shorten their journey time should consider one of our incredible private jet safaris in Africa or in Asia. This is the ultimate way to travel and one needs no more than one person to qualify for this method of transport. Including a private professional wildlife photographer on all of our private jet safaris in Africa and in Asia.
These are all just my suggestions though and each safari can be entirely tailor-made around your party and interests. For more information about the very best flying safaris in Africa and the most comprehensive selection of flying safaris on the continent, please do feel free to contact me directly or at The Explorations Company.
Headline image by Camerapix Studios, Nairobi, for Scenic Air Safaris Kenya. Other images and video courtesy of Soaring Safaris, Air Kenya, Scenic Air Safaris, Tropic Air, Ol Malo Kenya, Sand Rivers Selous, Green Safaris, Lewa Wilderness, Karen Blixen Camp Kenya, Richard Roberts.