Though I have travelled the world on everything from planes, trains, and automobiles to mega ships and even ships of the dessert, I have steadfastly avoided ever setting foot in a helicopter.
This is mostly due to a) my being scared of flying, b) my being claustrophobic and; c) my being a gutless chicken shit.
That is until now. I’m in Cape Town and despite my unbridled terror, the temptation of the bird’s eye views over the spectacular Mother City is proving hard to resist. As I whip out my wallet to pay the nice lady from NAC Helicopters who I’m sure is sending me to my imagined death, I am kind of surprised at myself for stepping up, voluntarily, to do something that I’ve always swore I wouldn’t. Sober.
It may have something to do with FOMO as I see the beaming faces of a bunch of fellow travel writers who’ve just disembarked from the tiny helicopter. It may be peer pressure as they tell me I simply HAVE to do it. Or it may be because I feel an urgent need to find my courage following a visit to Robben Island.
You see, after hearing stories of how the mighty Nelson Mandela and a bunch of far braver folk than I overcame their own very real and justified fears to change their and our lives, I figure facing a fancy schmancy helicopter and some of the most stunning views in the world at sunset doesn’t really seem like a big ask.
So in the spirit of living with courage, I swallow a teaspoon of cement and, with knees knocking and breath held, harden up to climb aboard the tiny, levitating tin can to view Cape Town by helicopter.
As we take off from the Victoria and Alfred (V&A) Waterfront, my heart is racing so fast I convince myself it could probably power the frigging helicopter in the event of an emergency. Thankfully the incredibly skilled pilot doesn’t resort to platitudes or condescension when I tell him I am quite literally soiling myself, though I am sure he fears for his upholstery, and instead just makes a pinkie promise that he’s done this a few times before and won’t kill me. This is reassuring given we are already several hundred metres up and watching as The Cape Wheel and harbour disappear from view…
And you know, true to his word, I don’t die once. Instead I feast my eyes on the rugged majesty of Table Mountain and the jagged headland of Cape Point and forget all about the whirling blades keeping me in the sky. The flat-topped Mountain, which has exerted a powerful pull on me since I arrived, is even more spellbinding from the air.
In fact, I feel free and have never felt less claustrophobic than I do at that moment. It appears that helicopters might just be a magical and rather unexpected exception to my flight phobic rule.
Indeed, I’m pretty fly for a scare guy. Instead of freaking, I spend fifteen minutes in awestruck bliss soaking up these unbeatable views over gorgeous Cape Town by helicopter, disappointed when the time is up.
And as we come in to land, I’m happy to report I leave the good captain’s upholstery just the way I found it.
E Pier Rd,
Victoria & Alfred Waterfront,
Cape Town, South Africa
Tel: 27 (21) 425 3868
Cape Town – Need to know before you go
When to visit
Cape Town is a great year-round destination.
While English is widely spoken, especially in the city, there are 11 official languages spoken in South Africa and the most commonly spoken languages are Zulu, Xhosa, and Afrikaans.
The Rand (R)
Voltage is 230V and 50Hz. Power outlets are round three pin sockets.
Visa & Passport Requirements
A South African tourist visa is not required for citizens of Australia for a stay up to 90 days. South Africa requires that all children entering or leaving the country carry an unabridged birth certificate and parental consent affidavits if they are travelling with only one parent. All visitors will require a passport valid for at least six (6) months.
Cape Town is free from malaria and safe for travellers of all age. While there are no essential vaccinations for travellers to South Africa at the time of publication, we advise visiting your family GP at least six weeks before travel for up to date advice on the latest recommendations and necessary immunisations.
Crime is an issue but 95% of serious crime occurs in the communities of the Cape Flats area, where it is not advised to travel. Pick pockets are bean issue in the city centre and muggings do occur in Table Mountain National Park, so it’s best to go with a guide and always keep cash and valuables hidden. It is not recommended to catch public transport or walk after dark, UBERs are a safer option.
Disclosure: Our joy flight over Cape Town by helicopter was independently paid for.