Selinda March 09, Airfield us (English)

When I learnt that 2 of my 4 passengers were very tall men, I asked Izzy to pilot the Cessna 402 rather than me trying to squeeze them into the Seneca.  Besides, it’s great fun to do a safari with Izzy.

We landed happily at Selinda and spent two wonderful days, made even better by a very appreciative group of guests.   The game we saw on the very first transfer drive to the very first camp – all very normal to blasé Izzy and me – was more than they expected of the entire safari!!  This was definitely going to be good!

During our 2 days in the area we had lots of rain, but it didn’t’ really affect the game drives, nor the general game viewing. So Izzy and I were quite unprepared for the drama that followed. Yes, we did discuss how best to handle the take-off because there were bound to be large puddles of water, perhaps mud, on the runway.  We could have saved ourselves the worry – when we got to the airfield, we found to our horror that it was totally and utterly unusable!  Large patches had disintegrated into slippery, soft sludge.  Yes, there was some terra firma, but, alas, not enough for the Cessna to get airborne, even without a load.

Izzy paced, measured and calculated with furrowed brow, while I frantically sought contingency plans.  By the time Izzy finally shook his head sadly, I had organized us a night at Zarafa, Selinda’s sister camp, an hour’s drive away. Smiling faces all round – Zarafa is easily the most beautiful lodge in all of Botswana.

Now all we needed was sunshine for the remainder of the day, and preferably a brisk, dry breeze during the night. Given that, Izzy would be able to take off next day and pick us up at some other, drier airfield.   A balmy evening with dinner under the stars was to follow. Good omen, we thought.  And then, in the middle of the night, the skies opened, thunder rent the air, successive bolts of lightning showed all too clearly the masses of water drenching the area far and wide – including, of course, the airfield!

Crisis Conference next morning. Clients to game drive, Brigitte into overdrive. Solution – drop Little Vumbura altogether, drive to a different airfield, get an aircraft to come from Maun and take us to  Mombo one day early (not the worst of fates).

I will gloss over the adventure of getting to Chobe airfield, for this involved crossing the Savuti Channel, which had, naturally, swelled to such an extent in the past 24 hours that all the known fords were no longer!  At one stage the guide barely managed to slam in reverse, just as the bonnet was about to go under.

Well, we made it and the guests so thoroughly enjoyed Mombo that any regret at having missed Little Vumbura faded rapidly. So, this was all very well for the group, but I spent most of my time at Mombo worrying whether Izzy would make it out in time to come and pick us up for the flight home, three days later.

There are pictures to prove that a Cessna can be an aquaplane! Izzy eventually decided, on day 2, that more rain would have him stuck there forever, so he used all his skill and knowledge of his trusty Charlie 402 – and blasted his way out of there!  Seldom have I been so happy to see an aeroplane approach Mombo!!

 Credit Brigitte Cross