I wanted to get out of the city and into the wild. This is exactly what I did when I visited Nairobi, Kenya and planned to go an a safari. I took a flight from the city center and into the middle of nowhere.
But I do not have any regrets, as the flight provided with plenty of unbelievable sights. It turned out to be one of the most spectacular flights that I have ever taken. For instance, there was a tower of giraffes on one of the runways.
Here is what all happened when I flew in a Cessna 208B Caravan from Wilson Airport (WIL) in Nairobi to OI Kiombo Airstrip in Masai Mara National Reserve.
Booking for the Trip
One of my friend returned back from Kenya recently and she was all praises for the services from the tour guide. Usually, I like book things on my own, but my work kept me occupied enough to prevent me to see around.
The preparation for the trip was started only a few days before I left. I should say that I made the right decision to take the assistance of a trusted guide, who booked the flights and accommodations for me. He also took care of the short hop from Nairobi to the African bush.
The Wilson Airport in Nairobi is only a couple of miles away from the city center and nearly 10 miles west of the more popular Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO). This airport springs out with surprise as we navigate the city streets.
The Safarlink terminal in Africa keeps buzzing with light aircraft all day long and the terminal itself is comfortable, airy and modern. However, the amenities here are very few.
The process of check-in was easy and I was allowed 15 kg max both for carry-on and checked in bags. Since, my plan was to return back to Nairobi, I decided to lighten my bags and leave all the unimportant heavy items with my guide.
I got a printout of my itinerary along with a boarding card and waited in the lounge for flight announcement. I had arrived at the place quite early. There were only two such flights scheduled for a day and I didn’t want to take chances.
I had to spend the time with almost a non-functioning internet system and coffee that was too uninspiring.
However, if you love watching small aircraft like the Cessna 208B Caravan than this is the place for you to be. Just few yards away, dozens of airplanes sit, waiting to be flown and it is an enjoyment to watch them from the large and plentiful windows.
Boarding the Small Aircraft
With nearly 20 minutes left for flight schedule, the boarding started quickly and me along with six other passengers climbed up the few steps into the Cessna 208B Caravan.
Some passengers paused to click photos next to the small aircraft.
The Cessna 208B Grand Caravan can fly with 12 people along with two pilots. There is nothing that separates the two group. It is almost as if you are flying a minivan.
Yes this a small aircraft, it did not had any lavatories or amenities or flight attendant. I fastened the seat belt and prepare to enjoy the view and experience the flight into the African Savannah.
The propeller of the single engine aircraft was quite audible. As the 208B rambled down the runway there was no skidding into potholes.
Within in no time we were cruising at 165 mph and the atmosphere was so relaxed that the pilots were reading newspaper. They were flying low enough to send out and receive text message.
After nearly 20 minutes of flying, the pilots were preparing for an unscheduled landing. It was a small airstrip and surrounded by a zeal of zebras. It was a stoppage for a few passengers and as they stepped down, the aircraft prepared to takeoff again.
It was than that I saw one of the most memorable moment of my life.
As the Cessna 208B was nearing the runway for takeoff, there were giraffes on the runway. The pilots tried to scare them away by pointing the aircraft towards them.
We were helped by a man on the ground who tried to keep the majestic animals away. Soon, we were rolling for takeoff again. This was something that is hard to forget ever.
It was almost close to an hour since I left Nairobi and now I was getting to OI Kiombo airport. The Cessna 208B Grand Caravan prepare to land at the simple airstrip where safari vehicles were waiting for us.
It was a completely different world, which is less than an hours away from one of the largest cities of one of the largest continents on earth.
We travel to experience different culture, but this aviation experience was one of its kind. This was not a luxury flight by any measures, but flying into the African bush in such a way gave some unforgettable memories.