Planes and boats and trains…or on this particular trip, just planes and trains!
Usually my visits to game lodges are self drive, but my trip to Madikwe was made extra special by the fact that I was flown there by Federal Air.
The trip started off on the Gautrain…my current favourite form of airport transport.
This deposited me at ORT International airport where I found the Federal Air Kiosk located in the bus terminus just past the rental car agencies. Although the map I was mailed was specific, some signage at the airport would have been appreciated.
My luggage was weighed (25kg instead of the usual 20,what a pleasure!) and very soon transport arrived to take me to their departure lounge which is a short drive away.
While in the vehicle I struck up a conversation with an Irish couple and it turned out we had both visited the same game lodge! I suppose that is a positive about flying on a charter flight…you actually get to interact with fellow travellers. We continued our chat over a (free) cup of coffee as we were on different flights.
Having never been privileged to fly on a charter flight before, I was taken aback by the fact that all the drinks and snacks were free! And not just biscuits…proper sandwiches!
The lounge and the adjacent outdoor area are well maintained and very comfortable, but luckily the wait was not too long.
The flight, in a Caravelle, was not as bumpy as I had feared it might be and it was great to be able to view the landscape as well as a large herd of Giraffe as we descended for the landing.
The outward-bound leg would take me to the Eastern airstrip at Madikwe where I was met by a ranger (Kaizer) from Thakadu River camp for the journey to the lodge.
This particular airstrip has recently been tarred and there are buildings going up which I imagine will be used for arriving and departing guests.
Kaizer was very patient as I did some images of the plane as it took off…and then returned so that I could get a shot of a landing!
I was going to spend 4 nights at two camps at opposite ends of Madikwe, which meant that the return flight would be from the (untarred) Western airstrip.
None of the camps have their own private airstrips so as not to disturb the guests or the animals.
All the commercial camps make use of these two strips to fly guests in and out.
My stay at both camps were very special( see Blog articles on Thakadu and Tuningi) and I was sad to say goodbye when it came time to leave for the domestic departure lounge at the Western airstrip…
which turned out to be a big tree that have a lot of Elephant graffiti on it!
Our return flight was in an even smaller four-seater plane but and I was allowed to sit up front in the co-pilot’s seat! Wearing the head-set and listening to the conversations between air traffic control and the various aircraft was fascinating…and just as busy as the chatter on the radios in the game drive vehicles!
All of this made the hour long flight go by really quickly and before I knew it were on final approach to ORT.
Aside from flying to Madikwe, Federal Air also flies to Mozambique, Zambia, Sabi Sands and Zimbabwe…an exciting way to add to a touch of class to your bush experience.
My thanks to the pilots, ground staff and Federal Air for making this trip possible…
And the lions for leaving the runway!
To see more images of the flights and the camps:http://picasaweb.google.com/david.batzofin
Tel: +27 (0) 11 395 9000
Fax: +27 (0) 11 395 9010