"Desert & Delta" Self Fly Safari Itinerary

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Guided & escorted – an African self-pilot safari in light airplanes taking in: Features, highlights &
luxury game lodges throughout South Africa, Namibia and Botswana! (with an optional side-trip to Victoria Falls)

A palette of Southern Africa’s regions of greatest contrast spread over the entire southern Subcontinent – the planet’s highest dunes and oldest deserts; Fish River Canyon; stark “moonscape” mountains, savannah grasslands, bush and forest vegetation, huge waterways, floodplains, pans and deltas, National and private game reserves, Skeleton Coast, …in between which we interface all the Big Game and Wild Animals, the peoples, their cultures, traditions, ancient and contemporary art.

We land and visit 4 sovereign countries, and overfly another two. The en-route legs are well spaced for comfort and overnight stops. The terrain, whilst largely flat, is very varied and interesting, broken by mountains and canyons. The land is dry, dusty and stark; it offers up incredible wildlife, scenery, ambiance and “feeling”.


Months of Operation

April through September


On safari for 15 - 17 days
Flying (approx) 28+ hours
Distance (approx) 2700 NM

Pilots need to arrive 3 days prior to safari launch, for pilot’s validations



Your first days upon arrival in South Africa - Orientation and Pilot's Validations

There are some options worth considering when visiting this region: You may elect to arrive in Cape Town or Johannesburg prior to the start of the safari. Although our safari self fly launches near Johannesburg, there are distinct advantages of commencing in Cape Town.  Click here for more.

Both Cape Town and Johannesburg offer interesting side trips to fill in between pilot’s validation procedures.

Note: Accommodations and routing details as listed in this itinerary are a sampling only of the many options that may form your final itinerary; the essential ingredients all remain at a high level of flying, accommodations, sightseeing and experience.
Day 1-3 Orientation, validation procedures and optional local excursions in and around the 'New York' of Africa.

3 nights, breakfasts, transfers, validation activities


Meet and greet
at Johannesburg International Airport and transfer to a delux Hotel or Country lodge, on the outskirts of Johannesburg -- your home for the next three days. Close to shopping centres and other areas of interest, convenient also from which to do short day tours. A good place to relax and focus on the safari ahead.

Late afternoon group meeting, introduction and orientation with African Aero Safaris who will be hosting your program and self fly safari and other tours over the next weeks. Schedule will be handed out with details on pilot’s license validation procedure that will be staggered over the following days. Airlaw test paper and reference material handed out. Briefing on African Flying conditions, checkride procedures, flight planning, met, reporting procedures. Overnight BB.

DAY 2-3
Pilot Validations and local activities - Review of pilot’s license validation procedure over the following days. Airlaw test paper and reference material handed out. Briefing on African Flying conditions, checkride procedures, flight planning, met, reporting procedures. checkride planning with flight instructor. Completion of checkride as required. Deductible insurance and documentation arranged for rental airplane. Focus and planning for the trip ahead. Processing by African Aero Safaris of the validation documentation at the SA CAA.

Balance of days at leisure doing optional half and full-day tours. Click here for some examples. 

Note: Time is built in here for completion of any additional flying required or overflow validation procedures.

Day 1-3 Orientation, validation procedures and optional local excursions in the beautiful Cape.

3 nights, breakfasts, transfers, validation activities


Meet and greet at Cape Town International Airport and transfer to delux lodge in the second-oldest town in South Africa. Nestling on the banks of the “first” river, it’s ancient oak-lined streets boast 17th century restored “Cape Dutch” style buildings, olde worlde charm and no heavy industry: Stellenbosch is a stone’s throw from Cape Town but offers presence, ambiance and style – an excellent choice to get orientated whilst you wear off jetlag. Easy walking distance of the central village area.

DAY 2-3
Pilot Validations and local activities - Review of pilot’s license validation procedure over the following days. Airlaw test paper and reference material handed out. Briefing on African Flying conditions, checkride procedures, flight planning, met, reporting procedures. checkride planning with flight instructor. Completion of checkride as required. Deductible insurance and documentation arranged for rental airplane. Focus and planning for the trip ahead. Processing by African Aero Safaris of the validation documentation at the SA CAA.

Balance of days at leisure doing optional half and full-day tours. Click here an itinerary example. Transfer to Johannesburg by scheduled flight or classic rail.

Note: Time is built in here for completion of any additional flying required or overflow validation procedures.

Day 1 THE LAUNCH! An ancient Volcanic land – rich in wildlife
1 night, dinner & breakfast, transfers.

Zebra and Warthog

It's been an exciting day. This is the highlight of your journey to Africa, and what it's all about: An aircraft and the African bush! We transfer to homebase airport, just north of Pretoria. After a final checkout and briefing we load our airplanes and check with the tower controller for if he will accommodate a streaming take-off. Following a bearing and co-ordinates we head northwest for a short journey to alight on the tar runway at this thatched and picturesque airfield. The lodge staff welcomes us and we check in, eager to see the offerings of this first stop in the wilderness. Should time allow, optional activities include a professionally guided open-jeep game drive – or unwind on the deck observing the animals coming to drink at the floodlit waterhole a few meters from your feet.
Domain of all the major game species, this area is well known for delivering more than expected.

Day 2 - 3 Arid sand veldt and dry waterways - a hard-bitten land
2 nights, all meals, all activities, transfers.


After our immigration checkout, we launch again for an interesting flight leg; we head over vast iron ore mining operations and continue along the western edge of a hilly region to our east. The land slowly drops in altitude as we continue over large game farms – there’s a fair chance that here you may glimpse buffalo or giraffe from the air. We intersect with the Limpopo River from our left and jump the international border to Botswana: We land on a ribbon of tar in a dry and bushy landscape just north of the Limpopo River. The Tuli Block is a 175,000-acre private game reserve that came to being through convoluted history and colonization orchestrated by diamond mining magnate Cecil Rhodes.

The immigration officers emerge from their thatched airport bungalow to greet you and you experience the first real taste of hinterland Africa.

Desolate to the casual glance, Tuli’s burned sand and scrub is the domain of elephant, lion, leopard, hyena, eland, and other antelope. Drive the expanse in an open land rover. Pause to gaze upon a herd of browsing elephant. Relax at Mashatu Lodge’s bar overlooking the waterhole, floodlit at night whilst we pique your interest in the natural indigenous flora and fauna. Dine at set tables around a warm fire in the boma. Finally, comfortable and asleep in your luxury chalet.

This area really delivers in terms of superb game viewing opportunities, knowledgeable rangers, trackers and superlative accommodations. Take a leisurely hike, mountain bike ride or horseride with your rangers and some time off in the “discovery room” to observe wildlife research projects first hand.

Day 4 - 5 The Zambezi and Chobe Rivers - Victoria Falls & the Gorge: Colonial Africa
1 night, dinner and breakfast, selected activities, transfers

It’s going to be an extended day in the air with an intermediate fuel stop. Turn around time is on African time. We start early with a game drive ending at the airfield. Our first leg takes us up the wide Shashe River where we have the opportunity to fly at low level along its course. Zimbabwe slips by under our right wing and we land at Francistown for fuelling.

Continuing we arrive at the eastern edge of the vast Makgadigadi pans – prehistoric lakes that are now filled only in the wet season. We may be rewarded with huge flocks of flamingos and pink-backed pelicans that will flush at our passing overhead. After the pans, the bush below thickens each side of the main road we are flying along. Occasionally it widens for a short distance – these are the Emergency Landing Grounds for military aircraft in times of long past conflict. The road is dead straight and a compelling navigation aid as we pass over huge herds of elephant browsing and playing below us.

Upon landing at Kasane where the four countries Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia meet at one point, we tie down and head for our river-bank lodge on the great Chobe River floodplain.

Activities here centre on the floodplain and wetlands, the Chobe National Park and the excellent sightings whilst cruising the huge river: Families of Elephant on the banks, wading and swimming; Buffalo, Hippo, Crocs, Red Lechwe (antelope), and a myriad waterbirds. A river cruise is an included activity either in the morning or afternoon.


Next day we head out early for a day-trip to visit the famous Victoria Falls. Optional activities here are: riding elephants in the Zambezi National Park, bungi jumping off the 350 foot high bridge, white water rafting the Zambezi, micro lighting or a helicopter ride over the Falls, visiting Impalila island cultural village and school in Namibia, more game activities in the Chobe National Park.

From our lodgings, a few feet from the water’s edge, we may be treated to elephants swimming the wide expanse of the river. Enjoy high tea or a gin and tonic on the verandah. Be pampered. Reminisce about a bygone era.

Day 6 - 7 Caprivi Strip & the Okavango River: Popa Falls & Mahangu National Park
2 nights, all meals, selected activities, transfers

Today we depart for Namibia. Our flight takes us up the expansive Zambezi River and vast floodplain to its South. Flying over this spectacular greenbelt, expect to see lots of Hippo, Elephant and herds of Buffalo.

We stop in to refuel and clear immigration formalities, then continue west over the Caprivi National Park to a waypoint on the great Okavango River, where we turn north once again. On our left now is the Mahangu National Park, below us, a wide wetland and the river. Once again Elephant may be wading through and Buffalo abound. Landing at Bagani’s dusty strip, we tie down and are whisked off to our lodgings on the banks of the great expanse of water that is the Okavango River.


“This is not a Big Five area (excluding only Rhino in this lineup) but game is plentiful, and the fishing and birding is spectacular. The river is fast flowing and dotted with islands and inlets. We have the opportunity here to do some local Tiger fishing or cruising the expanse by riverboat to observe the animals from this vantage point. A visit to the Mahangu National Park is a treat, delivering two rare and majestic antelope species, Roan and Sable.

Our lodge may offer a unique sala and massage salon, and you may relax in peace under the huge riverine trees whilst overlooking the river. After a scrumptious meal, we’re off to bed under classic African thatch with en suite bathroom and shower; even these have a view!. Each chalet has a veranda overlooking the river”.

Day 8 - 9 Etosha National Park – a great thirsty, white place
2 nights, dinners & breakfasts, Etosha National Park excursion, transfers

After our morning game activities, we take off and fly at low level along the huge Okavango waterway, with Angola under our right wing. It is patently clear which country enjoys more wealth and infrastructure – north is unbroken bushveld stretching thousands of miles, and on the Namibian south bank, intensive irrigation farms abut the river.

We are approaching Etosha National Park – the huge expanse evokes images of sunbaked, cracked earth and hapless animal remains - skeletons dancing in the mirage. The pan area is actually a huge prehistoric artesian well (mostly dry in winter) and the National park that surrounds it, home to thousands of animals and birds of a variety of species.

After landing at the airstrip it’s a short road transfer to our lodge - located a couple of kilometers from the park entrance gate at Fort Namutoni; we go back in time to the early 20th Century and learn why this classic old German fortress came to be there.

Eland, Zebra and Giraffe

Next morning we head off into Etosha National Park with our knowledgeable park guides - finding out about how the plethora of living creatures exist and proliferate in the seemingly harsh and arid landscape.

The opportunity offers itself here for another (optional) game drive today or just relax in the bushveld on your private verandah amid the ensemble of birds and local game on the property – warthog, impala, giraffe – that come strolling by your bungalow! We will refuel here from fresh drums of fuel specially pre-arranged.

Day 10 Ancient Bushman art, geological phenomena, prehistoric plants
1 night, breakfast, transfers

After refuelling from drums specially arranged for us, we head out over the Etosha Park, then land in Damaraland.  After settling into our accommodations, we embark on a time warp excursion to view the stark ‘burnt mountain” and “organ pipes” – strange pre-historical geological features. We are standing on land that once was the divide between Africa and South America, in the time of Gondwanaland, the supercontinent of 120 million years back. Here we will also see prehistoric Welwitchia plants and continue to the ancient bushman rock engravings – art of a forgotten race that has disappeared, but lived here when water was more abundant, thousands of years back.

Should you wish, an optional side trip is a game-drive to find the elusive desert elephant – hardy creatures that defy the driest terrain.
Day 11 Ancient Bushman art, Geological phenomena, prehistoric plants, Damaraland, Atlantic coast
1 night, breakfast, transfers

This morning it is likely we will fly down the dry riverbed and Canyons of the Uniab river – dramatic landscape by any reckoning and part of Gondwanaland’s continental rift. Now a thirst land, it gives clear evidence of huge water and river activity in times past. Enroute we pass north of the free-standing Brandberg (burning mountain) massif – where you may wish to take a look at the remains of a Cessna 172 whose pilot took up a challenge to land on the 11000’ summit! He landed in an “open” area atop some huge flat rocks - but trashed his airplane attempting take-off, and had to walk down!! And of course, received a fine for his troubles!

Now we intersect the Atlantic seaboard at Cape Cross and the seal reserves, where we turn south down the desolate skeleton coast. Next stop is Swakopmund, landing on a runway that’s almost impossible to see - it looks so much like the surrounding desert sands!

We take some time out to experience this classic colonial German town of yesteryear. The European influence on architecture, the people and general ambience is clear – Swakopmund boasts clean streets, beautifully restored period buildings, olde worlde Europe and lots of locally brewed beer! There is a spectacular precious stones gallery and the Swakopmund crystals are world famous. Shopping in this first world jewel is a delight! Overnight after sampling dinner in a local restaurant..

Day 12 - 13 Huge desert dunes, desert-dwelling creatures, spectacular light show
2 nights, all meals, all beverages, all activities, transfers

We have time this morning to go optionally dune quad-biking, horseriding or walking the beach. Lots of shopping opportunities also. Departing to the South we view huge seal colonies on the beach past Walvis Bay, a busy and picturesque fishing port; and on further for Meob bay along the Skeleton coast. The bare bones of shipwrecks lie imbedded in the relentless sand some as much as a kilometer inland; a deserted coastline gives way to even more deserted, huge, desert sand-dunes. At Meob Bay (a challenge to find the airstrip) we turn inland to the east. 30 nm later and after passing over an endless “sea” of rolling dunes we fly over “Dead mans vlei” and the highest dune in the world alongside it.

Stark mountains jutting out of the flat, desert plains below now appear and we descend to land on a strip almost impossibly, even more difficult to spot than Swakopmund’s! Finally we line up on the white-painted tires that mark the ends of the strip.

We are in the Namib-Naukluft park; domain of the oryx and caracal, bat-eared fox and spotted hyena.

The most spectacular sunsets entrance as evening spreads its cloak; the night is silent, the stars brilliant. Our home for the next two nights is in close proximity to the red dunes of the Namib Desert. At sunset, animals are drawn to nearby waterholes, providing added enjoyment to a sundowner drink.

Sossusvlei is renowned for its entrancing stillness, vast vistas and dramatic scenery. We take our dinners in expansive desert locations under the canopy of heaven, with starlight so brilliant it’s like a million candles suspended above us.

During the day we spend time with knowledgeable field guides, exploring the dunes and discovering the myriad creatures and plants that inhabit this seemingly inhopitable place. We may take an optional side trip to visit the highest sand dune in the world at Sossussvlei, and look down upon “Dead mans vlei” that we passed over in our airplanes; legend has it that a hapless sailor made it 50km inland from his wrecked ship, only to expire here, one dune away from a farmhouse!

Day 14 Sperrgebiet diamond coast, ghost town, river canyons, shipwrecks
1 night, dinner & breakfast, transfers

The desert’s serenity and its wildlife both have had their calming influence on our souls; lethargically we depart on our next scenic flight leg after breakfast.  Our route takes us over to the Coast again; this time our waypoint is a shipwreck, then on southwards to land at Luderitz.  This colourful village has interesting history, interwoven with a frantic diamond rush.  We visit the abandoned mining “ghost town” of Kolmanskop and imagine what life must have been like in those desperate days.   After a snack in the local restaurant, we return to the airfield and head east again.  About an hour later we notice the land begins to become more torturous.  We overfly the great Fish River Canyon, marveling at how aeons of time  and water eroded the twisting canyons below.  After flying along its western rim as it twists and turns southwards, we veer back on track and land at our overnight destination.  A short transfer takes us to our lodge, cleverly designed and laid out amongst huge boulders.

Day 15 - 16 Kalahari Desert – dunes, sunsets, endangered Desert Black Rhino…
2 nights, all meals, all activities, all beverages, transfers

Our final destination today is worth whatever officialdom we put up with involving border crossings and some paperwork. Deserted roads lead us on to the northern bank of the wide and fertile Orange River, for a landing at Upington for fuel and border formalities once again. It’s a short hop now to our destination for the next couple of nights.

A primary focus of the Kalahari is to expose the wonders of the sensitive desert ecosystem. Tswalu private reserve is enormous (over 220 000 acres) and the arid nature of the sandveldt savannah means that game, although plentiful, is scattered across a wide area. While the reserve is home to most of the "charismatic" African big game species such as lion, cheetah, wild dog, desert black rhino and buffalo, the arid habitat also supports a surprising array of smaller animals, birds and plants.

All activities are led by a guide and a tracker working as a close-knit team. Guides are chosen primarily for their enthusiasm in imparting their knowledge and trackers typically have grown up in the area and have a long standing traditional ken of the region and its history. The environment is thus "explored" with the guide team rather than simply "explained".

Walks to areas of San (bushman) or Khoi Rock Art sites are a highlight and you will be enthralled at the many uses of the shrubs, succulents and trees which have sustained "traditional man" through the ages, many of which are still used today.

Here our African Aero Safaris escort pilot and aircraft leave you for your own private time in the capable hands of your gameranger and lodge hosts……

Day 17 Back to "civilisation" and Homeward Bound

Sadly pack up and say farewell to our new-found friends. Exchange addresses, arrange to send photodiscs to one another.     Should time allow, your journey may be broken by a last, optional overnight at the spectacular and unique “Palace of the Lost City”, or head for your airplane’s homebase.

Upon landing, complete the paperwork and documentation and head off on our next adventure, or transfer to the International airport or other activities.

Your self-fly safari ends with a transfer to Johannesburg’s international airport. Optional activities are a transfer to your next activity or an overnight hotel for a last night on the highveldt. If the latter, a possibility is a group dinner - let the stories be told!

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