A helicopter flight has it all!
Soaring over the Drakensberg Escarpment is hard to beat…
Take to the skies over Hoedspruit for the experience of a lifetime on a helicopter flight into the Blyde River Canyon and beyond, exploring the spectacular hidden world on top of the Northern Drakensberg Escarpment from the air…
Taking off from Hoedspruit Civil airport in the centre of this vibrant little safari town is exciting in its own right, gaining altitude quickly as you swoop over the African bush that surrounds this Greater Kruger National Park hub. At the helm is local pilot and conservation warrior Jana Meyer of Hope for African Wildlife – an aviation company that also contributes its time and effort to helping protect endangered species like rhino in the game reserves that make this region of South Africa so popular with tourists.
The helicopter is small, seating just three passengers, but it affords incredible views of the pristine wilderness this area is renowned for. Spotting wildlife from the air is easy as the helicopter soars over the bush – rhino, giraffe, elephant… All are ticked off on the way to the mountains that soar on the western skyline.
As you get closer to the dramatic peaks you fly over the small, inconspicuous airstrip that was used by Tom Cruise and his production team for the filming of the Hollywood movie Mission: Impossible 8 – the last in this popular film franchise. Cruise and Co stayed in Hoedspruit for almost three months at the beginning of 2022 to film aerial combat sequences in and around the canyon.
Following in Cruise’s footsteps – or flightpath – the world’s third largest green canyon comes into view as the helicopter begins to climb over the Blyde Dam with the magnificent Three Rondavels towering over it. A boat cruising the dam looks tiny from above as hippo are spotted, as well as kudu on the dam’s grassy banks. The tufa waterfall disappears beneath as the chopper weaves along the Blyde River, banking left to follow the Belvedere River and the old power station that once supplied Pilgrim’s Rest with hydro electricity.
It’s fascinating to see the pristine, untouched wilderness that human feet are not able to reach – wide grassy plains fringed by dense trees intersected by a myriad rivers and streams all eventually feeding into the Blyde – the water lifeline of Hoedspruit and its surrounds. This is home to mountain reedbuck, which are spotted from above, along with duiker, bushbuck and more kudu.
Aloes and a selection of wonderful endemic plant species proliferate on top of the escarment, along with inaccessible sections of thick, riparian forest with a dense canopy of tall branches, all of which enjoy the frequent cloud cover and mist that produces regular rain and moisture to feed into the streams and rivers. It’s a veritable Eden.
The undulating top of the escarpment quickly gives way to a dramatic drop off, to squeals of delight as the chopper plunges over the edge, offering amazing views of the cliffs as it does so. Next up is the Klaserie Dam, via a brief fly over of Acornhoek and its surrounds. The dam glitters like a huge jewel in the Greater Kruger’s crown. A popular weekend haunt, it’s renowned for its fishing and as a boating spot.
Soon the helicopter is flying over Hoedspruit Wildlife Estate – home of eKhaya Bush Villa – and it’s amazing to see your home-from-home in the Greater Kruger from the air! A final pass over Hoedspruit and it’s time to land back at Hoedspruit civil airport, with amazing videos and photos and a lifetime memory in hand.
Talk to us about a Blyde Canyon helicopter flight during your stay with us and we’ll make the arrangements for you. We recommend Hope for African Wildlife but there are other operators who also offer helicopter and microlight flights, as well as hot air balloon trips.