Well after nearly two weeks of really rubbish weather, things look like they are improving at last... Join intern Susie Lilley on her first ever microlight flight:
Weather good to go – check, Pilot Johan– check, Micro-light – check, eyes like a hawk to spot the ‘tadpoles’ that are the whale sharks from up there – erm???
Finally after a week of the pilots not being able to get in the air due to adverse weather conditions, they were able to take off this morning for the aerial survey.
Not only is this V. exciting in itself but I got to be the observer. Pulling into the hanger and seeing the mirco-light for the first time and the thought of ‘am I really going up in that small baby buggy contraption and flying around the whole of Mahe and back’ ????? AM I MAD….
Well yes I am actually, and it was AMAZING!!
Echo Papa Echo with pilots Johan and Dirk...a pretty high-tec baby buggy!
Having put on all my warmest clothes and standing sweltering for approx 5 mins whilst Johan and Dirk do final checks. I get given my lifejacket and told the safety procedures if we happen to ditch into the sea, which after all is what we are doing our surveying over.
I get to climb into my seat. Dirk belts me in (this is nothing more than an airplane belt by the way) I put my goggles on and make sure my headphones are in place and the microphone touching my lips. (so Johan can here me scream obviously).
Then trying not too think too much about ditching in the sea and how on earth I am supposed to hoick my leg over Johans seat back to get into the right position to jump out before we hit the water! Cheery stuff this……
We finally set off past the Seychelles coastguards and out onto the runway, then with a Echo Papa Echo good to go, we take off... just like that! Much quicker than I expected and we are up at 1000 feet in seconds.
Susie abducted by a Mexican wrestler masquerading as our pilot! She seems happy enough!
Well what can I say,…………the view is fabulous, seeing the whole Island for the first time and feeling of wind all around and not being enclosed in an ‘metal container’ you get to really feel like you are flying. This as they say is ‘how it should be done’.
We then start our aerial survey flight around the Mahe. I am desperate to see a whale shark, as I still have an un co-operative back and therefore not allowed to go on the boat trips still.
I spent most of time scanning the water as we fly over it trying to see any ‘tadpoles’ below but lets be honest it would be good to see anything from this height. I have no idea how Johan sees what he does, he spotted a turtle and kept telling me to look at the brown dot on the surface before it dove back down. I’m like “what brown dot?” He tells me it gets easier once you know what you are looking for, this I am not so sure about. However, I did manage to see a fish shoal not long after so my hawk eyes must work, even if very briefly.
I don’t think Johan or Dirk need worry about me taking over from them anytime soon as my spotting skills leave much to be desired. Hopefully next time the sea will be clear and calm with exceptional visibility and I can really show them how good ‘hawk eye Lil’ really is, ahem!
Flying through the clouds is exhilarating and the reflection of the micro-light as we fly over them is a marvel in itself. As we head back down around the top of the island towards Beau Vallon we have to climb height to go over a bank of clouds to around 6500 feet, the view gets even more amazing but its does get a wee bit chilly at this height.
The microlight's shadow in a reflected circular rainbow on the clouds below... so cool....
We are still scanning the water below in the hope of seeing anything but really I am leaving it up to Johan at this height. He does assure me he can still spot the whale sharks from here but I am just enjoying the scenery now before we start heading back towards the airport.