The most uplifting way to explore the breathtaking beauty of the Mother City
Nothing affirms Henry Ward Beecher’s famed phrase that “the view is much better at the top” more literally than a whirl in a helicopter. Yielding a heady sky-high perspective of the rolling cityscape and countryside below, these small humming aircrafts, which place passengers just a thin pane of glass and short vertical drop away from rooftops, mountain peaks and watery stretches, promise the sort of panorama that myths are made of.
And when the scene that unfolds beneath you happens to be the breathtaking rise and fall of Cape Town’s terrain, well, you’re thrust as far into fairy-tale land as you’ll likely ever get. Sure, your standard bus or bike excursions will introduce you to our metropolis’s scenic strong points, but if you’re looking to truly appreciate precisely why the Mother City repeatedly tops international lists of must-visit destinations, there’s simply no better or more beautiful way to tour her than from within a Robinson R44 or Bell 206 JetRanger chopper.
As Frankie Roberts, marketing assistant for local operator NAC Helicopters Cape Town sums up, “This city is such a stunning place, so to be able to see it from a bird’s-eye view rather than while travelling on the ground is just incredible.”
From up top, you can spot the reservoirs that dimple the flat crown of Table Mountain, the full feline structure of famous peak Lion’s Head, the striking oval form of the Cape Town (soccer) Stadium, the naval base at seaside village Simon’s Town, the hulking shape of old shipwrecks jutting out of the sea and the warm streaks of red and orange that colour the Winelands’ vineyards in autumn. Not to mention, it’s also usually possible to see seals bathing on Seal Island, view whales surging through the waves in season and get a real appreciation for why Cape Point, a jagged strip of land that marks the most southwesterly tip of Africa, deserves its name.
In short, you’ll come away with an overview of everything that is so wondrous about this city in anywhere from 12 minutes to an hour, making a heli-flip the only way to quickly, and rather affordably, experience all of the Cape’s highlights if you’re pressed for time. Plus, considering that helicopter flights are reportedly cheaper in South Africa than anywhere else in the world, this may be your first and only chance to get up in the air at a rate you can actually afford.
Of course, to make the most of the outing, it’s important to choose an operator wisely, and while there are a number of companies that offer helicopter rides in Cape Town, one of the oldest and most seasoned is NAC, which flies from a base at the centrally located V&A Waterfront. Backed by the National Airways Corporation (the first commercial aviation company in South Africa), this market leader has plenty of experience in both operating rotorcrafts and unforgettable heli tours. What’s more, the business adheres to strict international health and safety standards (it has a 100% accident-free record) and prides itself on offering a highly personalised service, with lots of one-on-one interaction between customers and the pilots, who dot the flight with insightful commentary and make travellers feel a little like royalty.
“From the moment you walk into our lounge to the minute you step off the flight, you feel like a VIP,” explains Frankie.
As far as NAC’s packages go, the helicopter guru offers a variety of standard tours, from short, 12-minute flips down the Atlantic coast to hour-long journeys to the tip of Cape Point’s dramatic promontory and back, as well as airport transfers and various tailor-made trips to anywhere, from the Cape Winelands to whale-watching hub Hermanus. Below, you’ll find details on several of the company’s most popular excursions.
Watch the NAC helicopter flight experience:
NAC HELICOPTER RIDES IN CAPE TOWN
NAC Hopper and Atlantico Helicopter Tours
Ideal for those limited by time and budget constraints, the scenic Hopper Tour starts by rising up over the V&A Waterfront and giving travellers a breathtaking aerial view of the city bowl, the Cape Town Stadium, Table Mountain and Lion’s Head. It then hovers along the coastline, soaring over the oceanfront suburb of Sea Point, the white sands of Clifton, the idyllic stretch of Camps Bay beach and the magnificent Twelve Apostles mountain range before turning back to the base. Those who opt for the slightly longer Atlantico Tour will continue on over Llandudno beach to the handsome cove of Hout Bay, where it’s possible to view Seal Island and look down into the vibrant streets of Imizamo Yethu township. Notably, these are the only two NAC flights that offer passengers on both sides of the helicopter the same perspective.
Price: The Hopper Tour costs between R3240 and R6480 for the private use of the whole helicopter (for between one and six passengers). A single-seat costs R1080 per person sharing (this option is only available at 10:30am or 4:30pm daily). The Atlantico Tour costs between R4380 and R8760 for the helicopter (for between one and six passengers) and a single-seat costs R1460 per person sharing (only available at 10am or 4pm daily).
NAC Three Bays Helicopter Tour
This gem of a tour carries passengers all the way along the Atlantic Seaboard coastline, over into Hout Bay, past the cliffs of the famed Chapman’s Peak Drive and along the sandy stretches of the pristine Noordhoek beach. It then passes through to the other side of the Cape Peninsula and continues back up the False Bay coast, yielding views of the quaint fishing village of Kalk Bay and surfing hotspot Muizenberg, before landing back at the V&A Waterfront. The excursion gives passengers the rare opportunity to see both the front and back of Table Mountain and to get a feel for the Mother City’s various contrasting suburbs, from the poorer Imizamo Yethu township to the more affluent areas where swimming pools and tennis courts are the norm.
Price: Between R6450 and R12,900 for the private use of the helicopter (for between one and six people) plus a free harbour cruise. A single-seat costs R2150 per person sharing (only valid at the departure times of 10am or 4pm).
NAC Point Helicopter Tour
The most ‘wow’ way to view the world-renowned finger of land known as Cape Point, this tour extends from the Three Bays excursion, continuing over the rugged terrain of the flora- and fauna-rich Cape Point Nature Reserve before rounding the sharp cliffs of the most southwesterly tip of the peninsula (and the African continent). The helicopter then soars back over pretty beaches, wild coves, working harbours and verdant vineyards to eventually touch down back in Cape Town. As this tour offers picture-perfect vistas of one of the Cape’s most celebrated tourist attractions, it is a great choice for avid photographers.
Price: Between R12,900 and R25,800 for a private helicopter flight for between one and six passengers, plus free Cape Wheel tickets. A single-seat rate costs R4300 per person sharing (only valid at the departure times of 10:30am or 4:30pm).
NAC Winelands Helicopter Flight
There are few better ways to take in the spectacular sight of hundreds of budding vines standing to attention than from high up in the sky. Hence, the NAC Winelands transfer is the ultimate travel choice if you’re keen to visit Cape Town’s breathtaking vineyards and estates. The helicopter will transport you to your preferred winery, be it the historic Haute Cabrière in Franschhoek, the beautiful Waterford Estate in Stellenbosch or the sprawling Buitenverwachting property in Constantia, and passengers have the option of staying on at their wine estate of choice (i.e.; doing a one-way transfer) or enjoying a two-hour lunch at the chosen farm’s on-site restaurant and then returning to the V&A Waterfront base. Expect to see dramatic mountain ranges, lush valleys, trickling streams and bustling townships on the journey.
Price: Transfers cost between R5160 and R30,960, depending on the destination and number of people/size of the helicopter. A return lunch tour is priced at between R19,350 and R43,860, also depending on the destination and number of passengers.
Tip: NAC is offering a 15% discount on any of its private tours to CapeTownMagazine.com readers. Call +27 (0)21 425 3868 to get more information. Also, all paying passengers are entitled to a free glass of sparkling wine before take-off, so be sure to request yours if you’re in the mood for it.
Terms and Conditions for the NAC Helicopter Rides in Cape Town
- The rates listed in this article are inclusive of VAT, fuel and the pilot’s services.
- Prices are valid until 31 August 2017.
- The tours are based on specific routings and not on flying time as this can vary depending on weather conditions and distinctions in helicopter performance.
- Lunch tours include two hours of ground time. Any extra ground time will be billed for accordingly. Rates exclude meal costs.
- Transfer flights are direct flights to or from any destination within the allocated area.
- Please note that every helicopter has a weight limitation. Upon arrival at NAC Helicopters Cape Town, every passenger will be weighed together with baggage. The reading of the scale is kept confidential unless asked for by the client. Do note, the Robinson 44 craft has a single seat limitation of 125kg.