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12 Harbour Rd Hermanus South Africa P.O. Box
857 Hermanus Tel: ++ 27 28 312 22 95
Cell: 082 772 5949
Really Happens on African Wings Whale
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
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
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
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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