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What Really Happens on African Wings Whale Watching Flights

Climb in, take off, fly to the coast, look at whales, fly back, land and that's it. If you think that this is what happens on whale watching flights, no way.

All sorts of people fly with African Wings and, believe me, some are really memorable.

Like the beautiful Irish lass with her new husband of three weeks on honeymoon in the Cape. He was seated in the right front seat, she in the right back. First impression of her was of a vivacious, bubbly personality.
We arrived over the coast as a whale started a series of breaches directly beneath the plane. As the first breach took place directly beneath the right side of the aircraft there was an incredibly piercing shriek from the back.
As a pilot, loud noises terrify you. This kind of scream could only mean that we were about to experience a midair collision with something like a Boeing 747 or that a fighter aircraft had just launched an air to air missile and judgement day had arrived.
Nothing of the sort! It was just too exciting for her to see 60 tons of whale launch itself out of the water and crash back in the biggest splash you have ever seen barring a large meteorite splashing down in the middle of the Atlantic.
It took about 2 hours for my pulse to drop below 200 and my hands to stop shaking.

On the subject of loud noises..... Picture two incredibly beautiful young ladies from France, again one in the front and one in the back. Over a mother whale and her calf which is busy trying to get up on it's mother's stomach while she lies on her back on the surface. It's a very moving experience to watch this sort of thing from above and after 10 minutes of watching the baby manage to get onto mom's stomach only to roll off the other side again and start the whole effort again, both of the passengers were still totally engrossed, mind you , so was I.
Next instant, yes you guessed it, another scream but this time the lady in the back was trying to climb over the back of the front seats and was in a serious state of panic. I was a trifle rattled and in between trying to fly the plane with a demented passenger leaping around the cockpit I was trying to get her to sit back in her seat. No chance, the more I tried to return her to her seat, the more she screamed and leapt up over the back of our seats.
Then things got worse, the girl in front started exhibiting identical symptoms but in reverse. She was trying to get over the back of her front seat into the back. At this stage I was feeling a little panicky and hoping that neither of the two would bite me so that I would contract whatever they had.
As the front passenger screamed even louder and swatted at her legs (nice ones too), I caught a glimpse of the problem. A locust (a very large
grasshopper) had gained access to the cockpit while on the ground and had jumped first onto the legs in the rear seat and then onto the legs in the front seat.
About 10 seconds later I had caught the offending insect and dispatched it out of the side window at 1000 feet over the ocean. About 10 days later the passengers saw the funny side of the incident.

Many more amusing moments come to mind but the best one of all occurred as I was taxiing out with a cameraman from an overseas wildlife television channel strapped into the back seat of my previous aircraft. The rear door adjacent to his seat was removed for a clear picture of the whales. As we taxied slowly down the runway my attention was drawn to a long snake in the process of slithering across the runway. I pointed it out to the cameraman's assistant who was sitting in front with me and could thus see over the dashboard. As Mr Snake passed under our left wing I had forgotten about the cameraman and the missing door.
The snake as I then discovered was a member of the Cobra family as it reared up, spread it's hood and looked Mr Cameraman squarely in the eye. I have NEVER seen a human being move that fast. In one movement he removed his seatbelt, thrust his camera btween the snake and his body and changed seats to the opposite side in a cramped cockpit.

I think he was a little shaken as he apparently had some very shaky footage despite calm conditions and muttered about getting a large quantity of alcohol of any description down his throat in a hurry on landing.

There have been a few other amusing incidents, but if you want to know more you will just have to phone for a booking and experience them firsthand along with the most incredible view of whales in the world.



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