The Makgadikgadi Epic Skydiving boogie and symposium is one of the most unforgettable experiences imaginable for any skydiving lover, it took place from 12th until the 15th of July 2019 alongside the salt pans of the Makgadikgadi.
Makgadikgadi is one of the most scenic parts of northern Botswana, truly is something to experience. It’s hard to believe that just a year ago Sua Pan was full of water and we had the Puma Flying lions skiing across the calm water into the sunset, unfortunately after a very dry season the pan was bone dry.
Race for Rhinos 2018
We arrived late afternoon on the Thursday 11th July 2019 which gave us the opportunity to meet some of the people that make the epic possible ,these including The Botswana Parachute Association, Botswana Tourism, Botswana Defence Force and Gaborone Skydiving Club to mention but a few.
“Sua City”, as its affectionately known, would be our home for the following days. This tented camp is erected to accommodate all the skydivers, support crews and spectators that made their way to this remote venue located within the beautiful Nata Bird Sanctuary.
The Botswana Tourism Organisation makes sure that everyone was settled in in a comfortable tent (this is Africa, right?) The food was immaculate, offering a buffet three times a day with the best African Cuisine and more meat than you can handle. However, they also catered for vegetarian dishes, salads and fruits. All meals are served in a large marque on the pan shore, this also doubles as the meeting place for everyone trying to find refuge from the Botswana sun and also offers a great vantage point to watch the countless landings.
Skydivers come form all over the world to enjoy this unique opportunity to see the beauty of the Pans from a different vantage point. This year there were skydivers from as far afield a Germany, the United Kingdom, United States of America and many from South Africa and neighbouring Countries.
After a good night sleep, it was time for the Skydiving to start in earnest, we were taken to the nearby Sua Airport where the “Jump ships” were waiting and ready for their first customers. The Botswana Defence Force Air Wing made a Casa 235 available for the first two days, on day three the BDF Airwing made things really interesting when the Casa was joined by a Hercules C130, which is probably the ultimate tailgate jump ship.
Dennis Howe joined the BDF aircraft in a South African based Atlas Angel which offered tandem skydiving for the people of Botswana to experience the rush of jumping out of an aircraft for the first time. The jump ships were kept very busy throughout the duration of the epic with skydivers jumping from early morning to late afternoon. Even the trip to the airport was anything but boring with an abundance of game lining the route. Blue Wildebeest, Zebras and flamingos are some of the animals that were spotted to boarding point every day.
All disciplines of skydiving were catered for from wing-suiting to major formation free-falls, as there was no space limitations in the big birds. Sua Pan Airport was used as boarding point, the airport resides at an elevation of 2,985 feet above mean sea level and it has one runway designated 11/29 with an paving surface measuring 1,640 by 20 metres.
His Excellency Mokgweetsi Masisi, the current Botswana president, joined the Epic open day on Saturday and offered a warm welcome to all the visitors and thanked them for participating in one of the greatest skydiving evets in the world. The large crowed were entertained by a number of local musicians when they weren’t in the air or in transit to the airport. Okavango Air Rescue offered the locals flights over the pan in their Bell B206 Jet Ranger, many of the passengers had never seen their Beautiful country from the air.
After four days of absolute bliss it was time to head back home, this event will go down as on of my favourite aviation events that I have been privileged to attend. Many of the visitors took advantage of the fact that Sua Pan is driving distance of Victoria Falls, one of the most scenic experiences and one of the seven natural wonders of the World.
A special word of thanks must go to Botswana Tourism Organisation, Skydive Botswana and Nata Bird Sanctuary who made this wonderful event possible, once again you managed to pull off an event that most people will think is impossible. Well done to all and we hope to be back next year for the 2020 Epic.
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