12 December 2022, etc.venues Monument, London
Business Travel Show Europe, presented by The BTN
21 November, London Hilton Metropole
Kenya, a former British colony, grows as a tourist attraction. Nairobi, the nation”s capital, is 8.5 hours flying time from Heathrow, is 6,000 feet above sea level, and sits just a few miles south of the equator. Both BA and Kenya Airways have twice daily non-stop services, with the privately owned flag carrier through its partnership with KLM over Amsterdam offering no less than 12 departure points from the UK. In June of this year the profitable airline took delivery of the first of three planned Boeing 777s, kitted out two class with flat beds up front and the latest in individual ”on demand” video screens for everyone. The ”triple seven” features Boeing”s new massive luggage bins tucked away in the roof of the cabin giving the appearance of a much larger cabin.
Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is not a glass emporium that is all the rage. It is functional with air bridges, with a good selection of shops, and BAA 1980s, all yellow. If you arrive without a visa immigration is very easy. $50 or ”30. (A full set of jabs is recommended and malaria pills, often available from your own surgery or the British Airways medical centres at around ”160). Once landside it is straight into the friendly side of Africa, crowds milling around to meet relatives. Couriers and taxi drivers. The official languages of Kenya are Swahili and English. Don”t be alarmed when a Samburo warrior comes up to you dressed in tribal attire complete with machete and stick, puts his hand out in the traditional British manner and says in a London dialect ”how are you?”, the Kenyan equivalent of the American ”have a nice day!” Nairobi”s other airport, Wilson, is a tumbledown general aviation throwback to times gone back, buildings that look like they were put up in the 1930s interspersed with modern state of the art structures that would not be out of place on the north side of Farnborough. It is the centre for flights to Safari country with an odd mix of aircraft ranging from immaculate Fokker 50s, Dash 7s and Cessna 172s; to old wrecks that will never fly again. All on the same apron. Perhaps 150 aircraft. SafariLink is based at Wilson providing a network of scheduled services between the various camps and lodges, mainly using the ubiquitous Cessna Caravan.
The Kenyans are a proud and friendly people. There are 30m of them in a country the size of France. It is one of the country”s problems. In 1966, the setting of the famous film ”Born Free”, the story of Joy Adamson and Elsa the lion, the land supported 10m people. Modern medicine has reduced infant mortality and an increase in life expectancy means a great increase in those over 60.
Nairobi is a modern African city, the pavements like the roads anywhere in the country, poor. The centre is small, perhaps a mile square, and like any large metropolis, perfectly OK for pedestrians in daylight hours but off limits at night. In fact theft is virtually unheard of up country, but a problem in the capital. With sensible precautions it should not present difficulties. The Intercontinental, Hilton and Regency amongst the many chains represented, the ”Interconti” popular with diplomats and business visitors located opposite the Parliament building and government complex. The hotel has three restaurants and a 24-hour coffee bar. Full air conditioning, a large conference and hospitality complex together with a fine pool area and fitness centre completes a popular hotel. Even in the heat it is not much more than a ten minute walk to the National Museum and shopping area, effectively the city centre.
The safari was born in Kenya, named after the mountain of the same name, an anglicised version of a local dialect. When the early European explorers arrived on the Kenyan coast, they would set out on great journeys in to the unknown. Their porters called these journeys ”safari” which in Swahili means simply ”a journey.” Today they are sophisticated trips in a variety of styles ranging from wild life to wilderness. From high up at 7,000ft at Sambura, Shaba and Buffalo Springs; to the beach holiday along some 480 km of Indian Ocean shore. Aviation enthusiasts can take an early morning hot air balloon trip over the endless plains (and perhaps see 10,000 zebra at one go) or for the more hardy there is the walking trip in big game country perhaps even camping out under the stars.
Not all overseas trips are smooth by all means. In China ABTN found offialdom tiresome. Kenya”s tourism people in London were less than helpful. But the people at the sharp end, the tour operators and airlines are really helpful. It is perhaps the greatest place on earth to sea the great predators in the wild, lions, leopards, cheetahs and crocodiles. The graceful giraffe, the massive hippo and of course huge herds of elephants. Monkeys galore but remember to keep your tent door closed. They are mischievous little creatures. You don”t have to be young to visit Kenya but some kind of fitness is essential. Put it on to your list of places to go. It”s not expensive and you will bring back memories for a lifetime. Just before World Travel Market we will be reporting in details on a magnificent safari trip.