A Ride and a Slide on Hartbeespoort Dam
Exciting airboat eco-ventures that explore the remotest parts of Africa's interior to experience nature's heartbeat with Airboat Afrika.
This activity is suitable for FITs or groups, and can be conducted in English, German or French. A mere 45 minutes out of town, Harties offers wide variety of experiences and is a welcome break-away for guests having a transit night in Gauteng, or expats and conference participants in need of some fresh air.
Why You Choose Airboats Whether you plan to explore Africa’s rivers and lakes, track wildlife across pristine floodplains, go birding and overnight in a bush camp – or a luxury game lodge – an airboat safari is always an exciting adventure. How often have you had to turn back your 4×4 to look for another crossing? How often have you spent valuable time to disentangle your boat propeller, or even run aground and sustained crippling and expensive damage? How often have you wanted to just keep going – if it weren’t for all the weeds and not enough water under the keel? Driven by an air propeller – similar to an airplane – airboats have no moving parts below the waterline. Their flat bottoms make airboats an ideal vessel to venture into difficult terrain, such as swamps, marshes, river deltas and estuaries, lakes and lagoons, coastal waters, snow and ice – simply any kind of environment that would not be accessible by conventional means.
- From 395 to 3995
- All age groups are welcome to join on the exciting airboats.
- Comfortable clothes and closed shoes. Prepare for the sun as well.
- Spectators are welcome to watch the views from the shore, although you will miss all the exciting water sites.
- Bookings are required before hand.
- Fair Deal
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What is an Airboat ?
A buoyant, self-propelled, multi-terrain vehicle that depends primarily on air thrust for propulsion.
By this definition, simply attaching a fan to any old boat does not turn it into an airboat. There are watercraft being sold as airboats that are not ATVs.
Airboats do not use a submerged water screw and do not churn up the water. Thus, airboats are very eco-friendly.
The airboat differs from the hovercraft with respect to the amount of air cushion: An airboat may route some air from a supercharger to a cavity beneath the hull to reduce surface friction. The air cushion, however, is infinitesimal compared to a hover craft which often routes half of its power to the task of generating an air cushion.
Most airboats are about 16 feet (4.9 m) in length but they have been built as short as 6 ft. (1.8 m) and as long as 30 ft (9.1 m). A comfortable width is about 8 ft (2.4 m), which allows for a stable platform and easy trailering and trucking. There are drilling platforms and ferries, essentially air-propeller powered barges, much bigger than 8×30 ft (2.4 x 9.1 m).
The term “airboat” is not found in most abridged dictionaries.
What are Airboats used for?
Airboats are manoeuvrable and effective, offering a flat working surface low to the water. An airboat can be equipped with a variety of rescue or fire fighting equipment and high wattage lighting for night operations.
Airboat custom modifications can provide extensive lighting, powered by either the engine or an auxiliary generator. Other modifications include: fire pumps, deck guns, seismic equipment, GPS navigation, body hoists, and enclosed cabins for cold weather use.
Having no operating parts below the waterline, the airboat is able to traverse the shallowest of water or no water at all. With no prop in the water, the airboat is not hampered by submerged or floating debris that would damage a conventional water propeller. This also makes airboats a perfect and safe diving platform.
Airboats proved to be a valuable rescue and law enforcement tool in the search and rescue operations that followed Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana and Mississippi. Airboats can be operated on virtually any surface, they are much more robust than hovercrafts and offer a higher payload capacity.
Airboats are being used on all continents in various applications. In North America and Australia, airboats are an important part of the tourism industry. They are also widely used for fishing and hunting.
In Indonesia, airboats are used in forestry logging operations, where they enable personnel and material to be transported along the many waterways, often traversing on top of logs being floated downstream.
In Africa and other parts of the world, airboats are used extensively in mapping operations and seismic exploration, e.g. in the Nile Sudd in Sudan.
Airboats are fast, easy and rapid to deploy, affordable to purchase and economic to operate in comparison to hovercrafts or helicopters. They are incredibly easy to maintain – there are no axles, differentials, suspensions, wheels, tyres or steering columns to damage. The only moving parts are the engine – reduction drive – propeller system. The choice of an automotive engine allows the airboat to be serviced by any experienced mechanic, with fuel widely available. Diesel engines are another option and may be converted for use with bio fuel – an ideal alternative for safari lodge operations in outlying regions.
It is their versatility which gives airboats their wide range of use: eco-tourism, search & rescue, conservation, fishing, leisure, seismic exploration, law enforcement and transport. Airboats which do not have to rely so much on speed are also used as ferries.
Airboats are the only safe way to venture into the watery world of swamps, marshes & river deltas.
Safe? Yes, safe. Airboats are safe – both for the local fauna and flora, and for the guests on board. Airboats are a stable platform and thus provide so much more safety than Jon boats, inflatable’s, canoes or dug-outs like mokoros. Without any moving parts below the waterline, airboats are safe for the aquatic habitat. Vegetation does not get damaged or uprooted by the propeller, and should there ever be a collision with an animal – e.g. a hippo – the animal will not get injured by a water propeller. In fact, in case of a collision, the airboat will simply glide over the obstacle without causing nearly as much injury.
Important to note: Responsibility always remains with the operator – no reckless speeding!
In shallow waters, water-propeller driven vessels get frequently entangled. Though it is possible to lift an outboard engine and pick out bits and pieces of vegetation – its not very much fun to do that every 5 minutes. Besides, it’s causing severe damage not only to the skippers fingers, but to the aquatic flora.
Conventional boats increase turbidity by causing soil and organic particles to become suspended in the water column. Turbidity increases with water traffic and during periods of low water levels. It affects the amount of light available to underwater plants, and may affect fish and aquatic wildlife. In addition to increasing turbidity, excessive use of water propellers may redirect natural water currents. In marshes, channels created by conventional boats effectively alter the surface hydrology: sheet flow becomes channel flow; the severity of the channelization is related to the number of passes.
Advantages offered by airboats are numerous:
• no moving parts below the water line: only minimal impact to the aquatic environment
• airboats have a closed water cooling circuit – like a car. No chemicals are being discharged into the water.
• no slipway or launching ramp required
• helpless in the bush? only one person is enough to launch and land an airboat
• no matter how much water – or no water – the airboat can go anywhere
• an airboat can cross over sandbanks, floating grass islands and dam walls
• hidden rocks can be overcome easily
• dense aquatic vegetation is no obstacle
• an airboat is stable – passengers can move about without risking to tip the boat or fall in the water
• airboats can provide excellent visibility thanks to high seating
• airboats can be very fast – to simply cover distance quickly, or get away from danger. No drifting off into the pod of unhappy hippos…
Ok, and besides all of that: Airboats are fun!
Use in emergency operations
Airboats have a flat bottom hull design and no working parts below the waterline. They can be operated in floodwaters without regard to depth or floating debris. Loaded to capacity, an airboat can manoeuvre through floodwaters, skim over downed trees, submerged fences, wrecked automobiles, trash and vegetation. Although airboats have their limitations, they have been reported to operate in up to class 4 white-water.
Its unique features make it the nearly perfect vessel for flood rescue and evacuation. An airboat can be deployed without regard to a designated launch site or depth of water. An adequately powered airboat needs no water at all for operation. It can be unloaded from its trailer onto dry ground by its captain alone, without any additional help, and can even be manoeuvred across dry pavement to the water’s edge.
An aluminium airboat’s construction, coupled with a polymer hull covering, allows it to withstand the otherwise destructive punishment by ice shoves, rocks, logs and tree stumps. An airboat with a polymer-clad aluminium hull can withstand the destructive pounding of jagged rocks that would quickly destroy the vinyl skirts of a hovercraft or inflatable.
Any human activity takes its toll on the environment, even the simplest and most basic of all: access. From footpaths to clearings for gravel roads to actual tarred roads or railways – the simple act of advancement has a considerable effect on nature.
Protected areas such as national parks are conceived in order to minimize human impact. However, due to lack of available land, these areas are usually insufficiently large to become properly self-regulating biospheres. Human intervention is still required.
Also, human activity “upstream” of wilderness areas – proclaimed or not – has its own dynamics. Domesticated or farm animals and their diseases impact on neighbouring endemic wildlife, air and especially water pollution are transmitted across any virtual or physical boundaries. Environmental dynamics do not stop at borders and fences.
Besides, demographics such as the struggle for growth and resources, moreover so in developing countries, inherently obliges conservation interests to consider socio-economic pressures. Hence the need for sustainable tourism development to provide employment, generate income, and meaningfully integrate society and conservation.
While it is of course impossible to entirely eliminate human impact linked to the simple fact of human presence, it is certainly feasible to minimize our footprint.
Airboats’ versatility as all terrain vehicles, combined with their feature of providing a stable working platform, make airboats an ideal solution for wetland conservation.
Airboat usage includes:
• anti-poaching patrols
• fire fighting
• game management
• transporting equipment & personnel
• vegetation control
Why use airboats to fish?
OK, there’s more than one way to skin a cat – and more than one way to fish.
Rod n Reel – netting – or bow fishing. It all depends on where you are and what you’re fishing.
Rivers in Africa are often not perennial – and those that are often have huge variances in their water level, depending on seasonal rainfall.
What’s more, many rivers and lakes have lots of vegetation, rocks and sandbanks that make a boater’s life quite difficult. And expensive, thinking of your boat’s welfare.
Often the water is too low for a big boat, and small boats are a very unstable platform. In fact, a wide, flat bottom boat is best for running most rivers. And, in case you encounter local wildlife – hippos and crocs – bigger is better. Trust me.
It’s also difficult to find a place to launch a big boat, so an airboat is just about perfect: you can launch straight from wherever you parked your car, without any ramp, slipway or additional help.
Actually, with an airboat, you don’t even need water.
For the fishing, you do.
How can I see where my airboat is going?
That’s easy: Look out. Out front, that is. That way, you can see where you’re going – and find the fish. Just try not to hit a sandbank while you’re standing up. You might get airborne.
Purpose-built airboats for fishing come equipped with operator controls in front that allow you to navigate slowly without having to put down all your fishing gear and scramble into your seat.
If you have never taken an airboat ride, you should. It’s great fun, a little scary, and totally mind-blowing. Riding an airboat feels like flying over the water – at high speed, the boat barely touches the water’s surface.
Without any moving parts below the waterline, driven by a powerful air propeller, the airboat easily passes through very shallow waters, over grass and other vegetation. You can get extremely close to where the wildlife is, drifting along slowly.
The best toy ever!
The moment you step on it, the powerful engine springs to life and you’re ready for whatever’s coming your way. Sprint away from the surprised hippo, climb over a sandbank, or just glide straight out of the water altogether.
No help required: You don’t need a ramp, just park your airboat next to your car. Or load right onto your trailer, under your own power.
By the way, I’m off to get an airboat now. Talk about cool…
Utilized in sensitive wetlands, airboats are built to have minimal impact on the environment. Constructed of aluminium with an exterior polymer hull, these boats have little effect on aquatic and marsh vegetation.
Airboats provide a stable working platform and enable personnel and valuable equipment to operate in otherwise inaccessible environments.
Below are a few examples demonstrating the versatility of airboats, employed in diverse regions such as Alaska, Nigeria, Venezuela and the Sudan.
Airboats are equally at ease in polar conditions including ice, snow and drift ice, as well as tropical environments with shallow waters, fast floating debris and dense aquatic vegetation.
They provide safety even when encountering wildlife – both to humans and animals.
Water based law enforcement is a necessity in a variety of circumstances. Environments include rivers, wetlands, and coastal waters.
Activities include patrolling of sensitive areas and protection of other users and their watercraft.
The speed of an airboat enables it to outrun most other vessels; its versatility allows for easy and rapid launching and landing.
Airboats’ all-terrain capabilities make them an ideal pursuit vehicle on water – and off.
Sabine National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana was trashed by Hurricane Rita September 24, 2005. This wildlife haven was literally covered with tons of debris carried into refuge marshes by Rita’s storm surge. Almost one fourth of this 125,511 acre wetland refuge is covered with remnant homes, businesses, and industries from along Louisiana’s coast. The approximately seven million cubic meters of debris (250,000 dump truck loads) contains everything from teddy bears to tanks the size of large 18-wheelers. A post hurricane assessment identified 1,400 potential hazardous material items containing an estimated 115,000 to 350,000 gallons of hazardous liquids and gases blown and submerged throughout refuge wetlands.
This operation saw a combination of tracked cranes, marsh buggies and airboats in action. Single engine airboats, twin engine airboats and even a huge 3 engine airboat were needed to clear out heavy and bulky objects including oil tanks, propane canisters, plastic drums, 4-wheelers, fridges and freezers – anything the storm carried off. One of the airboats came equipped with its own deck-mounted hoist for heavy lifting.