Flight of The Swans - Photo Essay Taiga Crossing - Ben Cherry
Mt. Kinabalu at Sunrise

This photo essay is from the Flight of The Swans expedition which took place from September to December 2016. To find out more about this ambitious conservation expedition please go to my project summary page here.


The Taiga was a whole new challenge for Sacha, having conquered the tundra section; this massive expanse of forest conjured up plenty of issues. Previously the route was so remote and baron that the ground team simply couldn’t help, now though they played a vital role in guiding Sacha to safety in forest clearings. The flight plan had to closely shadow forest dirt roads to ensure that if anything were to happen to her paramotor Sacha could land without any branches trying to exacerbate an issue!

Sacha taking off on the outskirts of the taiga forest, at the side of the river.

Autumn was about a month ahead of the UK at that latitude, which meant that we were heading south right at the climax of autumnal colours giving a vivid kaleidoscope forest experience. From mirror-like reflections on slow, meandering rivers, to nighttime scenes giving an eerie scene of isolation and wonder to the immense taiga.

Swans over head!

The seemingly never-ending forest was a real issue for Sacha to fly (and land) safely. Queue the ground team!

The sleepy dirt roads would be briefly blocked to control the situation.

This was the first time the team had all been together, working to push Flight of The Swans south as Bewick’s were already on the move. Thankfully we were so fortunate with the weather. Up there it could change overnight and ground Sacha for days at a time, we had to exploit all opportunities. That’s where the efficiency of the ground crew to clear an area, often by blocking roads, get Sacha safely down, refueled and airborne again was paramount. The whole crew worked tirelessly.

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