We Belinda down to the airport and locate Mack Air to find our flight. We get there with 5 minutes to spare. A couple of girls with more braided hair extensions get us checked in (noticing a trend here in Maun). They say there are 2 others joining but they are late. By go time they still haven’t shown up so it looks like we’ll have the plane to ourselves. Woot!
We go across the street to the tiny airport terminal and get through security. Mark has to go back and check his sunscreen. Weird. We get a ride out to the tarmac in a van to a small white single-prop plane. Getting excited. “Climb in!”
A pilot is getting things ready in the plane. He introduces himself as Junior. He shows us the route on a laminated satellite shot of the area. We climb in and he briefly shows us the exits and says there are barf bags if we need them, “But please take them with you if you do. Souvenir”, “Haha, I think we’ll be good”, he slowly looks around the four of us, “You sure?”, there’s a pause, “Just kidding, guys. I’ll try to spot some animals for you. This will be fun”, “Let’s do it!”
aaaaaaand we’re off!
Narcopiggy meet Junior
Oh Narco, already!
The plane is loud but smoother than expected. Junior is constantly scouting for animals, pointing and angling the plane on one side or the other so we can get a look at them. And there are a bazillion of them! Massive amounts of everything: Hippos, giraffes, elephants, ostriches, zebras, wildebeests, springbok, kudu, duiker, cheetahs, hyenas, warthogs, monkeys, lions, and finally, the last on our big five checklist, Water Buffalo! Hundreds and hundreds of them lined up through the waterways below. Distant dots, but still counts. Big five done. Secret Mission accomplished!
It’s a picture dreamscape so I’ll stop yapping
The landscape is mesmerizing and ever changing. Serpentine rivers twisting through swamp and lowlands in a dizzying display of nature’s diversity. Shapes and patterns unfold in a way you could only experience from the air. This is instantly astounding and totally worth every pula. We stare in mostly awed silence accentuated with pockets of excitement when a new herd is spotted and Junior tilts us towards them.
What? There’s a little hut out there? I wanna stay there. How do you even get to that? Helicopter?
Junior announces that we’re half way and he banks the plane slightly into a turn back towards Maun.
The outskirts of Maun starts with larger ranches then dotted houses that gather in concentration. The runway comes back into view and it feels way too soon. Not because it was a quick flight, I could just stay up here for another hour.
Junior lands it like a boss
We thank Junior for the phenomenal flight and pula the palm on the sly. He was a great pilot. He offers to take a picture of us outside the plane and absolutely nails it.
Botswana is giving Namibia a run for it’s money now, that was killer. Time for a celebratory beverage. There’s gotta be something here by the airport.