Chase Wells is a pilot for a charter company in Maun, Botswana. He flies guests, staff and freight into camps all around northern Botswana, operating into approximately 15 different dirt strips - in the Okavango Delta, the Kalahari and the Linyanti and Chobe area. With his love for flying coupled with his passion for photography and wildlife, his job has afforded him the opportunity to capture some great moments...
What attracted you to aviation?
My first experience of flying was when I was only six months old. My mom and I flew up to Maun, Botswana in a small aircraft with a family friend. This was to become a regular part of my life, as I was fortunate enough to spend many school holidays flying up to Maun and into the delta with my godmother, who is also a pilot. I guess these experiences as a child stayed with me, and that’s where the passion began. It was always a dream of mine to work in the Okavango as a bush pilot.
Chase Wells is a pilot for a charter company in Maun, Botswana. He flies guests, staff and freight into camps all around northern Botswana, operating into approximately 15 different dirt strips - in the Okavango Delta, the Kalahari and the Linyanti and Chobe area.
What have you witnessed from the air that you would never have seen from the ground?
From the air, one is able to see large herds of animals from quite a distance. Buffalo are often easy to see as dust in the air usually gives away their position. I once flew over a large herd of buffalo, about 500 or more. I circled over them and just on the edge of the tree line and out of sight of the buffalo was a pride of lion that was following them. Quite an interesting thing to see from the air!
What is the best and worst part of the job?
The best part of the job is that we’re our guests’ first introduction to the delta and give them their first impression of what they can expect on safari. It’s an opportunity for us to get them excited for what lies ahead and show them this beautiful landscape from a perspective they can’t get on the ground. The overnights in the beautiful camps are definitely also a highlight! The downside to the job is the paperwork and regulation that comes with aviation, but I guess we have to do some real work at some point.
Top three things you never travel without?
My camera, a hat and my satellite phone! That’s all you really need out there.
What personal qualities do you need for a job of this nature?
One needs to be outgoing, have a love for aviation as well as for the outdoors, patience and a good sense of humour.
What should every passenger on board your plane keep in mind?
Passengers should remember that the pilot is also planning on reaching the destination alive and they will not put you in danger intentionally at any point. Also, that we don’t have control over the bumpiness of the air and that we’re not bumping the aircraft on purpose. And lastly that the sick bag in the back of your seat pocket is there for a purpose!
Your favourite part of Botswana and why?
Botswana is an incredibly diverse country considering it’s mostly desert. I would have to say that there is nothing more special or unique than travelling down meandering waterways in the heart of the Okavango Delta. With many different bird species skimming the water ahead of you, fish eagles crying from the nearest tree, and then coming around a corner to find a herd of elephant crossing the channel. It’s an amazing ecosystem, and a paradise in the middle of a desert, any person who has an appreciation for nature should put it on their bucket list!
Have you ever experienced near-disaster or a life-threatening emergency situation that you can recall?
I’ve been lucky enough not to have had any close calls while flying. Weather during our rainy season can make things tricky, and flights down into the Kalahari are often a little bit hair-raising as you can often approach a blue wall of rain and thunderstorms. But so long as you think quickly and make a plan to divert or go around it, it’s an amazing place to fly.
What’s on your bucket list of other places to fly?
I would love to fly in East Africa over the Serengeti and the Mara River during the migration. And some flying between islands in the Seychelles or Indonesia would definitely be something I think I might enjoy.
Follow chase_wells on Instagram to see more of his photographic work
Images courtesy of Chase Wells