The highlight of Jimmy Balodimas’s return to Africa with us was the “Fly-in safari” along the Skeleton Coast in Namibia.
We did a three night, four day safari, flying from camp to camp in a Cessna 210. Our local guide and pilot, Andre, grew up in this area, exploring, and learning about the fascinating geology and ecology. Andre’s experience as a light aircraft pilot are legendary, and his more than ten thousand hours in a Cessna 210 really showed when he was in the pilot’s seat.
Namibia is such a vast country and flying is very often the best way of seeing it. We flew over beautiful dune landscapes, punctuated with oryx and springbuck. We flew low level along the beach, seeing colonies of Cape fur seals, sharks basking in the shallows, dolphins hunting schools of fish, flocks of flamingos flying over lagoons and shipwrecks.
We would stop at intervals along the way, sometimes landing near the beach, to look at old diamond workings, or pieces of an old shipwreck. Sometimes we would land in a valley to look at some interesting geological formations, or to go for a walk and explore some secret caves with ancient Bushmen paintings.
In the evenings we would land on one of Andre’s desert strips, meet up with a vehicle and drive into a simple but comfortable camp where we would settle in with a hot shower, cold beer and good wholesome food.
From the camps we would drive or walk to look at the landscape, or for wildlife such as desert elephants, lions or giraffe or visit a local Himba village.
On our last day we took a boat drive up the Kunene river, looking for crocodiles and birds. We went up to Smuggler’s Point – a place where a man ferries Beryl or Aquamarine stone across the river from Angola to Namibia in his little homemade raft… and then he somehow gets it to Windhoek hundreds of miles away… all because the price is better in Namibia. A little part of life, that we only experienced because of the right local knowledge.