Fly the Friendly Skies

Johannesburg to Ulusaba

We started the day early at 6:15am to give us time to do the final packing, check the weight of the bags (20kg limit each on the plane), have some breakfast and check out of the hotel. A quick look out the window confirmed that it was going to be a clear and warm day, perfect.

The shuttle bus terminal was convenient, located just behind the hotel. We checked in our bags and they did their own weigh in and we came in at 35.7 kilos, 4.3 to spare, so we can buy a souvenir or two at Ulusaba and still make weight allowance.

We hopped into a shuttle bus for a 10 minute ride to the Federal Air terminal opposite the main Johannesburg terminal. The terminal is very nice with cool African touches, free snacks and drinks and a lovely garden to sit in.

Terminal Garden

At the bar I asked for an orange juice and got this strange hybrid LiquiFruit drink!

We were flight #1 and I could see the Beechcraft 1900,a 19-passenger, pressurised twin-engine turboprop airplane, sitting on the tarmac waiting for us. We got the call to board and climbed on in, seating 1 x 1 with a very low ceiling. Once we were all on board the engines were fired up and we rolled out onto the main Johannesburg airport runways. In a few minutes we were hurtling down the runway and into the sky. Flying in small planes is so much more immediate that sitting in a big 747, as this thing shot down the runway you really got a sense of the feel of flying.

Our plane to Ulusaba

Oh oh! About 5 minutes into the flight the captain came on over the intercom to tell us we were turning and heading back to Johannesburg and that we had a technical issue but nothing to worry about. As we came into land we could see fire trucks on the runway but thank heavens we got down safely and taxied back to the terminal. Apparently after takeoff the landing gear would not retract and unsure of the state of it preferred to land at Johannesburg, with all the support, rather than some dusty veld runway.

Once down we all disembarked and waited to hear what the outcome would be. I’m happy to say that about an hour later were back in the air and  heading toward our first landing at Bala Bala about an hour out of Johannesburg, from there it’s was only a 3 minute flight to the Ulusaba airstrip.

Woo hoo, we landed safely in Ulusaba around 12:30pm and Johan our ranger was there to meet us with a glass of champagne.

Ulusaba Air Terminal

The story of our first safari continues in the Sabi Sands blog