Everyone who visits Namibia wants to go on a safari – there are game parks and private farms all over Namibia that will drive you through the bush on a 4×4 outfitted with bench seats so you can “ooh” and “aah” over the endless animals and landscape of the country. And of course, there’s Namibia’s crown jewel, Etosha National Park. But how about something completely different: a helicopter safari!
Rainier Arangies gained a certain notoriety in Namibia not too long ago when the country’s President spotted a 1960s Bell “Huey” with original markings flying around in Namibia. Arangies had purchased the aging, but still completely functional UH-1 from a collector in the U.S. as a result of his love for all things helicopter. In addition, he has now amassed a collection of more than a half dozen different aircraft as a part of his firm “Expedite Aviation” – a rapidly growing company that provides rotary wing aircraft for a variety of missions, mainly from Tsumeb but also from other locations in Namibia. In addition, he now owns a Cessna which can ferry passengers from Windhoek to Tsumeb.
One of the activities Expedite offers is a design-it-yourself helicopter safari. You can either ask Arangies or his partner for suggestions involving private farms, or as we did, have them fly you out to Etosha. The down side of flying to Etosha is that there are minimum height restrictions – the Etosha tourists don’t take kindly to a helicopter buzzing the elephants at the drinking hole. But we arranged for the company to ferry us to Etosha, drop us at a nearby lodge, stay two nights, and then bring us back. As a part of the package, we had basically paid for two hours’ flying time, which means there was also time to do a turn along the edge of Etosha, as well as checking out sites of interest near Tsumeb, such as Lake Oshikoto.
This was not aboard the now-famous Huey, as that aircraft is based near Swakopmund. Instead, we flew on a Long Ranger, which was more than adequate to store our luggage for the weekend, and then shift back and forth in the aircraft to take photos and video on the flight. The cost was completely reasonable, and we also had to pay to house the pilot at the game park – but they offer special “crew rooms” at a much-reduced price. We were apparently the first users of Onguma Game Reserve’s new airfield, where we were picked up by park staff and shuttled to our tented room (with a short game drive on the way!)
The helicopter flight was a completely unique way to see Namibia and get transported to an idyllic game reserve. Want to fly the Huey? We asked whether this is affordable, and were that if you fill the seats and split the cost, it is a very affordable way to see the coastal dunes or fly along Namibia’s magnificent coast, where desert meets the sea.
Want to see what we saw on our trip? Check out the video below: