Safari Helicopters marks 30 years of flying

LIHUE — Seeing the Garden Isle from a chopper was the pinnacle of experiences for Chris Miller of Oakland, California, who got his birds’ eye view of Kauai with Safari Helicopters.

Even compared to boat rides bordering the Na Pali Coast, Miller said the helicopter tour was the best.

“From the boat it’s hard to grasp how big everything is, but on a helicopter up the cliffs and over the ridges, it shows the scale of it all,” Miller said.

Natascha Schmidt and Christian Sawer, from Germany, were equally as thrilled to make it into the air on their Kauai vacation, and snagged a spot on the Safari helicopter after a different company canceled their scheduled trip due to rain.

“It was awesome,” Schmidt said. “It’s our last day here, and we tried to book an open-door tour yesterday but it got canceled.”

The group was one of hundreds that have cruised Kauai’s skies with Safari Helicopters, which celebrated its 30th year in business on Oct. 1. It is the third-oldest helicopter business, after Jack Harter Helicopters and then Island Helicopters.

Controlling the cockpit was the company’s chief pilot, Paul Matero, who entertained guests with bits of history and cinematic tidbits as they cruised over places like the Huleia River, where Harrison Ford rope swings into the river in the first “Indiana Jones.”

The island’s geography, myths and legends, as well as information on native plants were all on tap.

He also took passengers over Waimea Canyon, along the Na Pali coastline, and into Mount Waialeale, where life-giving waterfalls cascade into lush greenery.

“It’s awesome to be able to share this beautiful place where we live,” Matero said. “I do this (pilot with Safari Helicopters) because they let me.”

Safari Helicopters was founded in 1987 and it is still a family owned and operated company. It’s one of the first operations on Kauai to use the A-star B2 helicopter and was part of introducing choreographed music along with tours.

The company also partners with Keith Robinson to offer eco tours, helping educate visitors about the indigenous and endangered plants and animals of Kauai, and offers free flights for local kupuna.

Safety is another of Safari Helicopters’ pride points, and the company has a clean safety record.

Preston Myers, owner of Safari Helicopters and one of the company’s first pilots, said safety is of the utmost importance, and he hires pilots that are of the same mindset.

“There are old pilots and there are bold pilots, but there are no old bold pilots,” he said.

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