Mambo vipi? Habari zenu?
after reading dozens of trip reports as part of my daily breakfast routine (You can't beat three maandazi, plenty of time and a good RTW-Report, can you? ), it's now time to contribute as well. Being a volunteer in Tanzania, the possibilities to fly are rather limited, apart from the outward journey itself.
But heeey, I didn't come here to veg out in the office for the whole year and having a Tanzanian residence permit, flying becomes affordable again.
Since my arrival, I was planning to do a roundtrip around the Lake Victoria. After talking to some fellow volunteers and checking out various options, my plan took shape as follows:
Dar Es Salaam -> Mwanza by plane
Mwanza -> Kampala by boat
Kampala -> Kigali by bus
Kigali -> Kigoma by bus
Kigoma -> Dar Es Salaam by train & bus
In the following, I will focus on the flight, but if you're interested, I can write about the other trips as well.
As I wrote before, a residence permit halves the price for most of domestic flights in Tanzania. Coastal Aviation offers daily flights from Dar Es Salaam to Mwanza using 19-seated Cessna Caravans. The flight stops at almost every airfield in the way, including such great places like Zanzibar, Arusha or the Serengeti. In short: A sweet dream for every aviation enthusiast!
A fellow volunteer, being a glider pilot, decided to join me and I eventually booked the flight for May, 21th. The booking was done online without any problems. However, I was asked by the customer service to verify my credit card at the airport. As I appreciate every possibility to visit the airport, this was also a breeze.
Enough of prelude, it's time to shine:
We left home at 6:00am in the morning, trying to avoid the infamous traffic jams in DSM. The flight was due to the depart a 9:00, so there was plenty of time left, but in Tanzania, you never know...
Maintenance area with two ATRs bathing in the sun
Coastal Aviation is (among other charter & commuter airlines) using the old Terminal 1 at Julius Nyerere Airport. After passing the security checkpoint, we entered the combined check-in & waiting area. The dispatch office of Coastal was located right beside the waiting benches, offering some interesting views into daily operations. A chart on the wall gave indications about the runway conditions at several airstrips (ranging from 'well-maintained' to 'unuseable'), as well as the maintenance schedule. The whole terminal had somehow an informal, relaxed atmosphere.
View on the apron
Shortly before 9 o'clock, a ramp agent called passengers heading to Zanzibar, Tanga and Arusha - our first three destinations. On this day, three Cessnas were departing for Zanzibar at the same time, delivering a mix of tourists, Tanzanians and Expats to the island.
Type: Cessna 208 Caravan
Depature Time: 9 o'clock
Arrival Time: some minutes after lunch - time doesn't matter down here
My friend took the front seat for the first three legs up to Arusha, there we swapped seats and I took over.
After a short welcome and security briefing, the captian started the engine and we joined the Caravan-Caravan (hihi!) to Runway 23. Interestingly, the whole leg to Zanzibar was done without communicating with ATC. Procedure as usual, I guess? Eventually, our prop lined up, waited for some minutes until the precessor cleared the extended centerline until TOGA was applied and after some meters, our lady was airborne.
Take-Off at HTDA
After takeoff, we made a sharp right turn, passing overhead Ubungo and my home Africa Sana until we left the coast Mbezi Beach. The flight itself took about 15min, until we touched down on the semi-autonoumous island of Zanzibar.
Can you spot my home?
Sometimes, even widebodies show up here
Landing at HTZA
After a quick turnaround (only two pax left the plane), we departed (without any comm again) towards Tanga.
Stone Town seen from above
This time, we spend almost 45min in the air. As we descended into HTTG, some red spots appeared on the weather radar. Therefore, we circled around a few clouds, decended rapidly and touched down in one rush. Regarding to the deteriorating weather situation, our commander suggested: "The leg to Arusha takes an hour, so if you need to see the toilet, do it now - and FAST!", pointing at some sinister cloud formations. Not even three minutes later, we're jolting down the runway and heading towards Arusha.
Whereas for the legs to Zanzibar & Arusha, we climbed to 3000ft respectively 7000ft, we cruised at 11500ft. The views were astonishing, only some minor clouds turned up and blocked the view.
Runway in sight!
Around 12 o'clock, we arrived in Arusha, gateway to the northern part of Tanzania with all its attractions: The Serengeti, Ngorogoro, Mount Kilimanjaro/Meru or Loliondo .
Each sip, a pleasure trip!
We decided to take our cue from the Caravan and also refueled ourselfs with (however with Soda ) and a horrible expensive burger. After a short break, we stopped by at the Coastal-Office, talked to some guys and eventually met our pilot for the journey to Mwanza. At around 13:00, we boarded the plane again, together with an Indian Family and two other guys heading for the Seregenti.
Great place to work!
On our way to Seronera Airstrip
This time, I occupied the front seat. I was fascinated like a little child, watching the pilot doing his work. On every occasions, moments like these clear up all my doubts concerning my career asprirations - I want so spend my working life in an 'office' like this and nowhere else! (Better turn off the sound)
After about 45min, we landed right in the middle of nowhere on a rough gravel strip, which belongs to some luxus-campsites in the Nationalpark. To our luck, everyone apart from us left the plane - Now, the plane was ours! Soon after take-off, the captain offered to fly some circuits over the park, enabling us to see the famous deer migration from above. The view was breathtaking, thousands of animals were tracking their way like column of ants. Truly unique! Unfortunately, my digital camera didn't manage to capture the moment precisely - sorry for that!
Landing at Seronera/Serengeti
After half an hour, we climbed to our cruising altitude (13500ft) and contiued to Mwanza. About one hour prior landing, we chatted a bit the captain until he suddendly asked me with a wink: 'I need to do some paperwork, can you hold for a little while?' - What a question!? You made my day! I really overjoyed to take my first, inofficial flight lesson (before starting my ATPL in September, hopefully) Me being a human autopilot
All too soon, we reached the coastline of the mighty Lake Victoria and started our descent into Mwanza. As heavy traffic was behind us, the captain accelerated our approach a bit and turned in a sporting, nevertheless smooth, landing.
Few seconds to touchdown!
We taxied along the UN-Apron and finally crimped ourselfs between a Precision Air ATR and another Caravan. We thanked our captain for this truly great flight, picked our bags and went towards the exit. Two fellow volunteers from Mwanza picked us up for a short drink, as the ship to Kampala was already being prepared for depature...
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