On my recent trip to Namibia’s Skeleton Coast I had my horizons well and truly expanded on a Schoemans Flying Safari. Phew, that really was an alternative safari.
The scale of the mysterious and alien Namibian landscape is breathtaking. I’ve never been anywhere like it. Flying through mist over the hulls of abandoned ships swallowed in sand was truly magical and quite surreal, too. The Schoeman brothers are pilots with thirty years flying experience, skilled at flying low and from our vantage point of 100 feet or so above the ground we had an extraordinarily different perspective. Geological formations tilted at an angle and we could see detail in the strata it isn't possible to see from the ground.
We travelled in convoy in two C410 aircraft – tiny planes which carry four passengers. We flew in tandem, waving to each other out of the little windows, pointing out the sights, pulling faces. The other plane carried a family of four with children aged 9 and 11 years. As we swooped and dipped over the dunes I thought how truly privileged those kids were to have such an amazing experience – surely one they will remember for the rest of their lives.
Being such skilled pilots, the Schoeman brothers are able to land their planes in unimaginable places. On one occasion they flew us to an area where if we looked through a magnifying glass it was possible to see tiny garnet fragments in the sand. Glancing up at the layers of dunes stretching away in the distance, tinted purple and pink in the setting sun, I felt as if I was in a Rothko painting.
On a trip like this the luxury lies in what you are seeing and doing, not in fancy hotel furnishings. That said, I had some of the best nights’ sleep of my life here, thanks to refreshing bucket showers and the thick mattresses and gorgeous crisp sheets on the camp beds. After the thrill and excitement of a day’s flying I was ready for my kip!
I have never felt so at one with the landscape as I did flying with the Schoeman brothers. It was truly elemental, and I was in my element.
A flying safari might not be for those who are planning their first safari, mainly because it is such an exhilarating and adrenaline-fueled experience. There is only so much sensation a person can take! It can be quite challenging and there is less game viewing than on a conventional safari… but what a ride!