It's hard to believe that an everyday job can be a wonderful adventure that takes you to places beyond your wildest dreams
It’s 8am and I’m in the office having my usual wake-me-up coffee, preparing for another extraordinary experience that I call my job. As a pilot for AirKenya, my office is at 10,000 feet as I fly travellers to remarkable destinations across Kenya: the Maasai Mara, Samburu, Diani and Lamu Island to name but a few.
Today’s flight path takes us from Nairobi’s Wilson Airport to the Maasai Mara and onwards to Lewa and Samburu in Northern Kenya. As the last passenger boards I can’t help but notice their excitement, most of them busily cleaning their camera lenses getting ready to snap shots through the airplane’s windows.
Fifteen minutes into the flight, we cross the Great Rift Valley bordered by soaring escarpments to both the East and West, and below us the Valley floor is sculptured by volcanoes, some of which are still active. The gods favour us today, as the weather is mostly clear with only a few clouds on the cruise. The Aitong Hills marks our point of descent as we fly through the clouds down into the Mara. Wildlife can be seen roaming the great grasslands: giraffes gracefully reaching out for a late breakfast of acacia leaves; a herd of buffalo fresh from a morning mud bath; and a family of elephants in the distance.
Our first stop is Kichwa Tembo airstrip, near the Mara River. The guests disembark with their cameras and are warmly welcomed by their hosts and ushered into safari vehicles.
After a brief turnaround, we hop up above the magnificent western wall of the Rift Valley, and the passengers stare in amazement at the spectacular views of the Oloololo Escarpment stretching down all the way to Tanzania before landing at Angama Airfield. In true Kenyan style, the welcome today includes Maasai warriors fully clad in traditional dress, and guests are offered the option of accompanying them on the short walk to the lodge.
Today, we’re also invited in for lunch before our afternoon flight – my weakness is the desserts!
The afternoon’s schedule is one of my favourites; Northern Kenyan is a truly remarkable destination, with enticing places to visit such as Ol Pejeta, Lewa Downs and the Samburu National Reserve. The flight northwards takes an hour over the Mau escarpment and onwards to the Great Rift Valley lakes that are home to immense numbers of flamingos on their shorelines. Our descent for Lewa Downs starts at the northern peak of the Aberdare Mountains – Lewa is a vast wildlife conservancy, overlooked by Mt Kenya, and home to endangered black and white rhinos as well as Grevy’s zebra and wild dogs.
Our final touchdown of the day is Samburu, a 20-minute hop from Lewa. It’s a much-loved national game reserve with astounding semi-desert landscapes that include the Matthew’s Range and the Ewaso Ng’iro River, an important source of water for both the Samburu people and the wildlife. Travellers are welcomed and embraced by their hosts accompanied by handsome Samburu women dressed in colourful textiles with numerous beaded ornaments around their necks.
As we fly back home, I’m reminded how lucky I am to experience Kenya’s beauty and diversity every single day in my little tiny office that has the best view in the world.
Note from the Editor: How magnificent are the names of Kenya’s iconic destinations. They just roll off the tongue like something from Middle Earth: Aitong Hills, Oloololo, Mau, Ewaso Ng’iro, Samburu and Ol Pejeta.