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The Skeleton Coast Flying Safari is one of those memorable life experiences that you wish you could bottle, to pop open when the hustle and cacophony of civilisation gets too much – just to feel what silence and space feels like again. Each hour presents new surprises, and with the special interpretation provided by your guide, a member of the Schoeman family, the place comes to life.
It’s hard to sum up the Skeleton Coast succinctly. In general it is vast and breath-takingly empty. From the air, it possesses a whole new dimension. Ancient watercourses become striking patterns, like lace, spread beneath you. Rock formations created millions of years ago, are flung into relief in the late afternoon sun to resemble a sheaf of paper rippling across the earth. The bright stretches of ochre sand, the reds and purples of basalt mountains are all quite astonishing when you are seeing them with your own eyes. Photographs just can’t do it justice.
In our opinion, the Schoemans’ camps deserve special mention; your initial thought is likely to be something akin to surprise when you consider how simple they are (by today’s standards) when compared to the price of the safari, which if you think in simple “per night” terms comes to roughly £1400 per person per night.
Simple tents sit under thatched structures, some with internal bathrooms, others set some distance behind. Dining is unpretentious and there’s no attempt at overt design statement; just very unassuming, beautifully run camps in stunning locations.
In our book, though, this is exactly the way things should be done. Clearly the cost of this trip is in the indescribably remote locations of the camps and the running costs of the aircraft. And it’s the people, their experience and the places in which you find yourself that will ensure that this is an experience you wont ever forget.
For many people the idea of being cooped up in side a small plane doesn’t fill them with joy, however, (speaking as a 6ft 5 bloke) the rear seat of the aircraft, which is by far the smallest, is surprisingly comfortable once you’re in (large people like me may take a bit of getting in, but it’s worth it). What’s more throughout the trip you’ll get the chance to circulate between rear, mid and co-pilot seats so everyone should be happy.
From the air, skimming along at low level, the views are all encompassing and cinematic, so time passes in an instant. That said, hops between remote landing strips are generally short anyway (an hour or so), other than on the last day when returning from the Angolan border to Windhoek. Even then you’ll probably touch down in a remote spot for a leg stretch.
The plane is a Cessna 210, the retractable-geared cousin of the tried and tested Cessna 206. Unlike the 206, which grinds it’s way through the sky with little concession to aerodynamics, the Schoeman’s choice of aircraft is designed less like a John Deere and is consequently a good deal faster.
Of course the main thing is having access to the incredible views for photographs. And which ever of the Schoeman brothers you fly with will take great care to ensure that everyone gets the shots they’re after. Importantly only four of the five available seats are ever filled, leaving room for luggage and elbows.
Natural High arranges safaris all over Namibia, drop us an email if you'd like to discuss some ideas for anything from a camping safari in the dunes, to a self drive itinerary to the Skeleton Coast Flying Safari. Or you can download the itinerary here.
Rumour has it that Catherine Ronan used to be a spy. We find this slightly hard to believe as she loves nothing more than to divulge her travel secrets and infect other people with her enthusiasm.