flying in east africa

A special dedication to Howie-

I (Ray) generally enjoy flying, and at one point in my life I wanted to be a pilot. The same could not be said for Rachel, who does love to travel, but would prefer if it didn’t involve rocketing 30,000 feet in the air in a wobbly metal can full of explosive jet fuel. To her credit, this has never stopped her from going anywhere in the world!

Our first flight out of SFO was on a pretty nice plane…

oh wait, that was Air Force One. I believe Obama was visiting Facebook, where he probably asked “want to bet how many likes I’ll get if I kill Bin Laden?”. The result was all our flights were delayed about 20 min for extra security steps.

our first leg was a much more conventional KLM 777 direct to Amsterdam.  Even though it’s a grueling 12 hour flight, they get points for their frequent and above average food, and solid personal entertainment system.

Once in Amsterdam, we only had about 2 hours to connect to our flight to Nairobi, not even enough time to acquire euros and purchase a Heineken.

After another 6 hour flight, we arrived in Nairobi, Kenya. We only stayed for about 10 hours before we hopped on another flight to Zanzibar, Tanzania! We booked this airline called Precision Air before we left. I’ll admit we were a bit skeptical of booking a regional East African airline (my experience mostly being with regional Asian airlines, which are either great or very sketchy…. I’m thinking of you Asia Spirit!), but the plane turned out to be a pretty new-looking ATR-72. I was very distracted by the tasty organic yogurt with granola they served on a 40 minute flight!

Our preferred mode of transport.

After our awesome time in Zanzibar (see past posts for pics), we flewback to Nairobi for a day, then we were off to the Maasai Mara for Safari! Our Safari company booked the tickets as part of the deal, so we went to the regional airport to check in to Air Kenya. When we asked what kind of plane we’ll be taking, they said it depends on how many people are flying that day. Apparently they book tickets and assign their fleet of small prop planes later.

When we collected our boarding passes, the Air Kenya employee said “you will be the fourth stop today”. Fourth stop you say? No, we’re flying to the park, not taking a bus. Oh, this is a plane? Oh so we stop at 4 different dirt air strips in the park, each 7 minutes apart. Do we land or do we parachute out? Eleven seater? Sweet. Why does Rachel look so green…

The best part was when we were the last passengers on the twin otter (see above), and the pilot was clearly letting the 23 year old co-pilot practice taking off and landing. I suppose it’s similar to what we do when we let medical students and interns stick large needles in people in the hospital… “watch one, do one, teach one”

Well, the view when flying 2000 feet above the Maasai Mara is breath-taking. I tried taking a few shots but they didn’t do it justice. We buzzed a few elephants and giraffes! After our 4th landing, we were greeted by this amazing 20 year old Land Rover that was tough as nails, but desperately in need of a new clutch.

After 3 days of watching animals and bouncing around the park in the Land Rover, we were sitting on the dirt runway again. I remember watching the guards chase zebras off the runway, awaiting our twin otter to take us back to Nairobi, when this relatively huge 50-seat Dash-7 drops in.

After a very quick and smooth ride, and another couple days in Nairobi, we were off once again, this time Kisumu, our current base. The plane was a small Kenya Airways Embraer, and the flight was most memorable for the slick maneuvering the pilot did to avoid the usual afternoon thunderclouds that roll through this part of Kenya. A choppy but well-flown flight by the pilot.

Thankfully, the only flights left are the ones that will take us home in 2 weeks! More posts on daily life in Kenya soon.


Published in: on May 17, 2011 at 6:00 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Omg omg omg I loved loved loved this post! Why doesn’t everyone I know do a photo retrospective of their planes. Couple comments. Jealous that you flew the skyteam livery klm 777 and a new Kenya E170!!!

    Awesome!!!!! And I loved the 4 stop air Kenya. Just like southwest cross country!

  2. Reblogged this on Black European.

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