Not everyone's cup of tea—flying in a helicopter gets the adrenalin pumping out of sheer excitement. That sense of being pushed down in your seat when it takes off, the noisy blades whizzing so you have to wear a headset, and the ultimate bird's-eye view of the land below. Please put me in a helicopter any day for the electrifying thrill that is much more satisfying than merely sitting in a plane. If, by some chance, a helicopter crashes, you have a 21% chance of meeting your maker compared to a 36% fatality rate in a small plane. Planes go splat into the unforgiving earth or sea, whereas a helicopter can auto-rotate down—if you are lucky.
Below are some incredible helicopter flights to soar over waterfalls that gush in powerful torrents from great heights. What greets you from above a majestic waterfall is a mind boggling panoramic spectacle of a fierce unstoppable wall of turbulent water plunging down a cliff as the continuous spray creates a fine mist, occasionally forming a rainbow in the sun's rays. The sheer force, the unrelenting thunderous roar, and the untamed raw beauty that nature has created stimulate your senses. There's no pattern to the tumbling water; it's a chaotic moving mass free-falling into the depths below. And the smell is that of freshly falling rain, which most people love. Over eons, waterfalls became imbued with cultural significance where sacred rituals were held in the belief of the gods and spirits living within these water curtains.
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Spanning two countries, Zimbabwe and Zambia, Victoria Falls is the largest waterfall in the world concerning water volume. Even walking along the tracks on the perimeter of the gorge, where it plummets from 108 meters into the Zambezi River, you get soaked by the spray. Raincoats are necessary, and boots with a good tread stop you from slipping on the muddy walkway. There's an intriguing myth that an entire village is underwater in the gorge, with some claiming they hear voices rising from the depths.
One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, Victoria Falls is locally nicknamed 'the smoke that thunders .' At 1,708 meters wide, the falls are crowned with two islands and six gorges. Over five hundred million cubic meters of water per minute —think 200 Olympic-sized swimming pools—runs over the edge of the broad basalt cliff face causing a water spray that can be seen for miles. Here, there is a chance of seeing the unique event of a lunar rainbow—known as a moonbow—when the light of a full moon hits the falls. There are only two places in the world where you can witness this phenomenon, the other being Cumberland Falls in Kentucky.
There are a few variations in the legend of the creation of Niagara Falls. The one attributed to the Iroquois Native Americans is that a young Seneca girl was accidentally swept over the falls and rescued by the 'Thunder God' aka Hinum. He teaches her how her tribe can destroy the snake monster in the river. Thus, the fierce battle with the snake creates America's most famous waterfall—Niagara Falls.
Since 1850, over 5,000 people have been washed over the falls. Very few survived (16 people recorded), and those that have, went over the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side. Niagara Falls comprises three separate falls: American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Horseshoe Falls. The sight is awe-inspiring from the air—the sheer power, size, and thunder of water dropping over 50 meters. The pretty green hue of the water is attributed to the dissolved salts and very finely ground rock caused by the corrosive force of the water running in the Niagara River.
Iguazu Falls, Brazil
Perched on the border of Brazil and Argentina, the Iguazu Falls is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and was included as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature in 2011. Taller than Niagara Falls and more expansive than Victoria Falls, Iguazu Falls span a massive 2km with a flow of 1000 cubic meters per second. The falls consist of about 275 individual waterfalls depending on the rainfall and numerous cascades bubbling along the Iguazu River. In the language of the Guarani/Tupi indigenous people, Iguazu translates to 'big water.' The falls are steeped in the myth of a thwarted love story. A beautiful virgin maiden, a great warrior, a sacrifice before a wedding day ending in a disastrous canoe ride being chased by a furious, angry Serpent God. The serpent's death throes are said to have created the waterfall.
It's easy to be caught up in fanciful imaginings when eerie mist caused by the water spray rises from the surrounding jungle. You can literally stand in the horseshoe shape of the falls, totally surrounded by waterfalls. When looking down from a helicopter, this dramatic sight of hundreds of tourists in the middle of the falls is mindboggling. A Hollywood dream backdrop, Iguazu Falls has appeared in numerous movies such as Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and one of my all-time favorite films, 'The Mission,' with its haunting music theme, 'Gabriel's Oboe.'
These aren't the only epic waterfalls to be gaped at out of the window of a helicopter. Angel Falls in Venezuela plunges over 800 meters, and another monster on the Potaro River in Guyana, Kaieteur Falls, sits amidst pristine rainforest that will make your heart skip a beat because of its beauty.