I’ve always wanted to have that feeling of being like a bird; soaring high above the world in a quiet suspended state of wonder. Thus, my bucket list for this trip had a lot of bird-like experiences: Skydiving, paragliding, parasailing, hang gliding.. you get the drift. One I hadn’t ever considered, because I had never heard of before, was experiencing the feeling from a microlight.
If you haven’t had the microlight experience, add it to your bucket list now. You won’t regret it.
The Unexpected Surprise of a Microlight Trip
One of the girls on my trip had set the microlight as her main experience for adventure activities in Africa. I was more than happy to go along for the adventure after we inadvertently got ourselves stuck in Zambia for an extra day to avoid exorbitant visa prices as a Canadian (in her case; I traveled solely on my American passport in Africa for this reason alone).
A microlight in short is a lightweight one or two seater fixed-wing aircraft with a maximum fuel capacity of 50L. They’re more for personal fun and aviation as they aren’t meant to get you far by any means. They’re completely open on the sides, allowing one grown adult woman to flap her arms like a bird and coo for half the flight duration. Give it a go, it really adds to the experience, I promise.
To be honest, they look a bit ridiculous and I liken them to something your dad would’ve had you make with him in the garage after a failed go kart attempt. But looks aside, they’re considered very safe and the pilots we had were very experienced. Microlight flights in Zambia are by no means cheap: a 20 minute ride will easily set you back $170 plus another $25 for the DVD of pictures (which are definitely worth the cost). But when in Rome.. or in this case, Zambia.
Flying Over the Zambezi and Victoria Falls
My pilot went through the basics with me rather quickly, checked that my shoes were on tightly enough and wouldn’t plummet into the abyss, fitted me with a helmet and mic system to chat with him, and we were pretty much ready to go. The seat belt that keeps you in place was laughable – think of those dinky little ones that keep toddlers belted in at those grocery store rides. Thankfully the craft keeps relatively stable during the ride and my seatbelt stayed fastened. I know this because I checked about every 42 seconds, just to be sure.
We set off and navigated up and around until we were directly over the falls. My heart was in my throat half the time, but not because of a sense of panic. I was in awe at how huge, how beautiful Victoria Falls is. While neither technically the tallest nor the widest falls in the world, Victoria Falls takes the cake in sheer volume. We navigated the main length of them as I pointed out my hotel and where I had been injured in the Zambezi river below to my pilot. After experiencing the falls, he went out a bit further into the Zambian Fields’s where to my utter surprise, we saw all sorts of wildlife frolicking below.
The ride is relatively stable and great for all ages, though in my case the pilot was able to add an element of adventure to our flight as he caught different winds and swept us up and down. I was also offered a short go at steering the craft during a quieter part of the ride which I thoroughly enjoyed.
I was surprised that the twenty minutes was more than enough to feel like I had had an authentic experience and not wasted my hard earned cash. Before I knew it, we were coming in and radioing for permission to land. I expected a bumpy landing, but despite it having picked up wind quite a bit in the minutes we’d been gone, we landed without issue and came to a smooth stop.
As my pilot unbuckled me, it was only then I noticed he was barefoot. African safety standards, I guess.