Helicopter ride in the Okavango delta

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Jan 7th, 2012, 08:19 AM
  #1
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Helicopter ride in the Okavango delta

Can anyone suggest a company/specific pilot for a helicopter ride in the delta next month. We will be at Kwara and Duba Plains and want to do a one hour, doors off ride - primary interest is photography and possible aerial game viewing. If anyone has done this please comment on the experience, optimum time of day to be able to see otherwise inaccessible areas of the delta and game viewing. Is flying over concessions where one is not staying generally allowed? We would like to take the helicopter from either camp- my thought was the most convenient time would be one in which we are in-between game drives, meaning late morning early afternoon, but I'm not sure if this is the best time to do a flight.

Which camp would be better for the helicopter experience - at Duba if the buffaloes are in paradise island or other inaccessible places, the only way to see them would be by chopper.

thanks
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Jan 7th, 2012, 10:10 AM
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The cheapest thing for you to do would be to charter a helicopter from Wilderness Safaris since you are already staying at Duba Plains. They have their own helicopter stationed at Vumbura Plains about 50 miles to the East. I chartered one in May 2010 and again in September 2011. In September we had to pay $10,000 for five hour. The going rate is about $1,500-$2,000 per hour. I have flown direct from Vumbura Plains to Duba Plains and it takes less than 30m on the helicopter. The flight from Duba to Kwara would be about 20m and the return from Kwara to Vumbura would be about 15m. Overall you need to pay for the 35 empty minutes (when you are not on it) plus your time when you are on it. The cheapest way to get helicopter time is to stay at Vumbura as there are no empty/dead legs for you to pay. I think Wilderness does it by the hour so you will need to do a 1 or 2 hour increment. The pilots name is Yuri and he used to be the at Eagle Island Camp in 2010 with Orient Express. I am not sure what happened to Anne.

I did not go on the September 2011 trip but Matt and Kelly from our office went and they took overhead video of every Wilderness Safari lodge in Botswana. They had to coordinate it all with the camp managers when guests were out on game drives so it was not easy. We have only finished cutting videos from Chitabe, Abu, Duba, and Mombo. Here is Duba (since you are staying there) and Mombo late in the dry season – Sep 28, 2011.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kL91J...3&feature=plcp
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdth6...1&feature=plcp

Craig Beal – owner – Travel Beyond
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Jan 7th, 2012, 02:51 PM
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Thanks Craig. Very helpful. The distance from Vumbura Plains to Duba Plains seems to around 15 km based on this map (which may not have accurate scale).
http://www.eyesonafrica.net/african-...ngo-safari.htm
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Jan 7th, 2012, 04:37 PM
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You are absolutely correct. They are indeed that close. Not sure what I was thinking when I typed that. When the Vumbura air strip is flooded they have used Duba. They are that close.

Craig Beal - owner - Travel Beyond
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Jan 7th, 2012, 05:58 PM
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"They had to coordinate it all with the camp managers when guests were out on game drives"

That was thoughtful and reasonable. Swooping down on an inanimate object like a camp is different than on herds.

I hope chopper rides do not become the status quo in Botswana, disrupting the peace on the ground, annoying the guests and frightening the animals.

For transportation on a set route, I can see the need at times for a helicopter. But it would be a shame if the lovely Botswana concessions had to contend with aerial distractions that were anything but very rare. That could be a huge deterrent to visitors.

Please tell me that helicopter game drives are not the next big thing!
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Jan 7th, 2012, 09:47 PM
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The heli ride from Vumbura to Duba would be less than 10 minutes, and definitely less than Duba to Kwara. The surcharge between Duba and Vumbura for me was USD 50 (travelling charge between Vumbura and Duba since the heli is based out of Vumbura).

I booked on the spot there, depending on the weather and there was ample availability and flexibility-infact I could tell the pilot by 2 pm if I wanted a ride for the late afternoon.

As I mentioned AKR1, in my PM, the cost was substantially less than what Craig has quoted here- seems Craig paid almost 80% more than what I did. Maybe they have a high season/green season pricing too But you are going in the same season I did.
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Jan 8th, 2012, 04:12 AM
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Thanks, Tanya.
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Jan 8th, 2012, 05:14 AM
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Hi Tanya,

Kelly and Matt had the helicopter and the pilot for two full days. What we paid for was five rotor hours (motor on). That is probably why it cost so much. We also had a staff member from Wilderness Safaris with for safety as Matt had to stand on the rails while filming.

Lynn - there are less helicopters today then two years ago in Botswana so it is not the norm. I would not be too much concerned.

Craig Beal - owner - Travel Beyond
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Jan 8th, 2012, 07:34 AM
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"there are less helicopters today then two years ago in Botswana so it is not the norm."

Safari Craig - Where did you come up with this statistic? Most of the air charter operators have helicopters now.
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Jan 8th, 2012, 10:22 AM
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Hi Luangwablondes - Let me clarify and I better disclaim this with “to my knowledge”. There used to be two helicopters permanently stationed in Botswana IN the Delta. One was at Vumbura Plains and one at Eagle Island. As far as I know, the one at Eagle Island is gone. Therefore, I would not say the use of helicopters is proliferating. Even if they were, they would simply replace fixed wing aircrafts since there are little or no additional beds being built on any of the major photo-concessions. The same number of people are still coming and going each year. Wilderness Safaris has, for the past two years, used their helicopter to transfer guests from Vumbura Plains to Mombo and vice versa. This is not guaranteed at the time of booking but it usually happens and is a surprise to the guests.

Craig Beal – owner - Travel Beyond
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