Of course we made the transfer bus to the airport at 6am the same morning (see yesterday’s blog for more details) despite having only arrived at the hotel ninety minutes earlier. Our contact in Mombasa, Erastus, who we’d booked our safari from, was waiting for us with the minibus. As we climbed into the eight seater bus, we bid good morning to another passenger who has also foregone sleep in favour of a wildlife adventure. Realisation dawns as we speak, that we have actually met before… one year ago, when we were heading out to the masai mara last time. We’re all immediately stunned by the coincidence after which we’re talking away like friends who only saw each other last week all the way to the airport.
Rather than the main airport buildings we’d left several hours ago, we drive round to a much smaller building for internal transfers and for the fourth time in only two days we pass through security checks, and as we’re getting old hands at it now we sail through, though admittedly the tests are less stringent than those we went through in the UK. The 21 seater aircraft leaves the runway at 8:12am (I can provide exact timings for all part of our journey, if required to do so, M’lud) but it won’t be a simple two hour flight… of course not… we have to pick up other passengers along the way before we head for the prize… the Masai Mara. We follow the coastline south and after only eight minutes we descend again and as we land I’m hoping there’s going to be another security test as I figure I’ll be able to ace it!
We embark whilst extra fuel is hand pumped into the planes reservoirs. Nat Geo is showing in the waiting room, and there’s a small kiosk selling pringles, red bull and various other familiar products. Swift are making passes over the runway but they’re too fast to properly identify but it doesn’t matter, I simply enjoy the spectacle.
We get back on the plane just before 9am, and having bought some digestive biscuits and diet coke, I feel almost human despite the lack of sleep. The engines whir into life and with a couple of extra passengers on board, the excitement within the cabin is now palpable, despite more stops to make.
I manage to get 30 minutes sleep and this makes all the difference; now I feel awake, alert and ready for the first drive of the day. We pass mount kilimanjaro. The summit shrouded in cloud, and now we hit more cloud. The mara has been suffering from lack of rain over the last few months but these aren’t clouds that will bring much needed water to the plains, they’re the type that dapple the sky, the type that stop the sun from making an appearance to help those photos to pop… and there’s more ahead. There’s still another hour until we reach our destination, so I’m ever hopeful that the miasm of clouds will dissipate to give the kind of lighting us photographers crave.
After a several stops to drop off excited passengers heading off on their adventure, it’s our turn and as 12:09 the plane lands on the makeshift runway, and we’re there ready for ours, tiredness and lack of sleep but a distant memory.