Kate shares what days spent on African bush strips in transit used to mean, compared to what they mean now...
Not that long ago, during my teen years, my parents dragged me around Africa (mainly willingly) as they built some of the continent’s most lovely lodges in far-flung places. What this meant to my sister and me was that there were going to be endless hours, if not days, spent travelling.
It was the Nineties, so as long as we were armed with a book, a Discman, a pack of cards and a deck of UNO, we knew the hours would fly by as we hopped from plane to plane to vehicle back to plane again on dusty African bush strips.
If the truth be known these days spent eternally in transit were mainly when we were visiting more remote African countries like Tanzania or Kenya but this was almost twenty years ago, and my, how the times have changed. Gone are the days of wasted hours going ten steps in reverse on your itinerary to change direction on step three and then go forwards from there.
Just recently I had the opportunity to visit some lovely lodges in the Serengeti (Four Seasons Serengeti, Mwiba Lodge, and Legendary Serengeti Mobile Camp). This was the chance for Mike and I to test out a relatively new routing from the Mara in Kenya to the Serengeti in Tanzania (practically next-door in African terms) known as the Tarime-Migori Route. This would take only 3 hours from door to door.
For those of you who might have forgotten, getting from the Mara to the Serengeti used to take all day: you flew from the Mara to Nairobi; waited for your connection; caught an onwards flight to Kilimanjaro Airport in Tanzania; followed by a flight/drive from Kilimanjaro to Arusha Airport; another wait for a connection; and finally catching the flight from Arusha into the Serengeti. And most of the flights were in the midday heat – need I say more?
On mammoth days like these, I would inevitably run out batteries for my Discman (did I mention only a Sony?) and my sister and I would be on no-speaks because we would have spent too much time murdering each other at UNO.
Fast forward to 2015 when four regional airlines (two each in Tanzania and Kenya) decided to work together and make travelling, and family relationships, more pleasant by launching the scheduled Tarime-Migori Route. How it works is really quite simple …
At 11am, Mike and I hopped on a 20-minute flight from Angama Mara’s Airfield to Migori Airstrip, close to the Tanzanian border. On any given day I have been told that this airstrip is completely desolate barring the vehicle waiting to collect you. However we landed into a throng of 10 000 Seventh Day Adventists, and I had a glimpse of what it must feel like to be Brangelina – there were more mobile phone cameras on me than I have ever seen in my life.
Anyway, we were warmly greeted by our two drivers with cold water and border forms, and set off for the 30-minute drive to the Tanzanian border, taking in the images of countryside-life as we sped by. The best part was the road is as smooth as can be and before we knew it, 30 minutes later, we had zoomed through both the Kenyan and Tanzanian borders, escorted by our trusty guides.
Once we were in Tanzania, it was another 30-minute perfectly pothole-free drive to Tarime airfield close to the border and were welcomed by the Rastafarian owner of the local duka (shop) and a very clean loo – essential when pregnant. Just as we had settled into a chair under some shade our plane arrived to fly us to the middle of the Serengeti – an easy 40 minutes.
Before I knew it, we were in our lovely suite at the Four Seasons, without having cracked a book, reached for an iPod or temporarily rocking our marriage over a silly game of cards.
Editors note: Either a combination of Regional Air Services & AirKenya or Coastal Aviation & Safarilink offers this scheduled flight routing daily. And the airlines provide the ground transport through the two border posts – it’s as smooth as silk.
TAGGED WITH: Angama Team, People, Safari, South of Angama Mara, Tarime-Migori, Team, Travel