If you haven’t yet, grab a cuppa and check out my first post in this series on Tanzania
The next morning we were up early to catch a flight to the Northern Serengeti. We would be flying from Lake Manyara to Kogatende.
Unfortunately, shortly after our departure from Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge we were run off the road by a government car overtaking a car coming in the other direction. Luckily, our guide managed to swerve and save us all!
Even so, it was reported to the authorities at the Ngorongoro park gates and we carried on, if a little shaken.
To add to my already heightened state of anxiety, it was time to experience a bush flight.
I am not good with flying.
Actually, that’s not true, I’m cool with flying, I’m NOT cool with crashing!
We climbed into the cabin and I couldn’t help but notice just how small the plane was! I began to think of an earlier comment from our guide, Lake Manyara airstrip sits on top of a cliff so the pilot must fully commit to the take-off!
My chest tightened and I struggled to breathe. I grabbed something for a makeshift sick bag, I was close to making a run for it but my husband promised me it would all be alright.
As our pilot taxied down the runway my grip on my husband’s arm became tighter and tighter – tears were beginning to stream down my face, I felt a certain sense of impending doom.
At the end of the airstrip our pilot made a u-turn and before I knew it we were tearing down the runway. I couldn’t breathe and I began to shake uncontrollably
The plane lifted off and I glimpsed out of the window, moments later we cleared the top of the cliff and the sheer drop below us. It was unbelievable.
I then began to smile.
I was smiling through a tear-strewn face. I still don’t know how as in that moment I was terrified but the more we climbed, the more I smiled. The view was spectacular!
About ten minutes into our flight, a feeling of calm came over me. The plane was actually pretty steady and the other passengers (all 12 of us!) were all busy chatting and taking pictures.
This was not a death trap. This was an experience of a lifetime.
45 minutes later we landed at Lemai airstrip to drop off some passengers and collect some others. I again prepared myself for take-off but without the fear, hyperventilation and makeshift sick bags. Ten minutes later and we were due to land at our destination, Kogatende Airstrip.
I admired the landscape between Lamai and Kogatende, it was so different from that around Arusha. We flew along the Mara river and before long we saw our first Wildebeest crossing!!
And then, one of the single most memorable moments of my life so far happened.
‘Guys…’, our pilot turned around (with a plane this small, there is no intercom).
‘…there are Wildebeest on the strip, we are going to have to do a flyby to disperse them’.
By this point I was beyond comfortable with our pilot’s ability to get us safely to the Serengeti, he could have said we were doing loop-the-loops and I would have been cool with it.
The plane got down low and, as promised, flew past the airstrip.
Thousands of Wildebeest dispersed below us, the view was unlike anything I have ever seen!
As we circled back from our fly by, it became quite apparent that the Wildebeest were having none of it. They were all back on the airstrip! the local guides jumped in there 4×4’s and chased them to safety, away from the runway.
While this was all going on, we all enjoyed an extra fifteen minutes of spectacular views of the Northern Serengeti, Mara river and the chaos below.
Our time in the sky eventually came to an end and we landed very smoothly at Kogatende. I was super excited to begin my Northern Serengeti safari and our stay at Lemala Kuria Hills