Airline gives Kabunde Airstrip a lifeline

Revival of air transport between Nairobi and Homa Bay after more than one year of dormancy is expected to boost tourism activities in the lake side county.

The devolved unit is hoping that tourists will take advantage of Mombasa Air Safari that will fly the route.

People can now fly from Nairobi and Mombasa to explore some of the tourist destinations like Ruma National park and the white sandy beaches along the shores of Lake Victoria.

For more than one year, Kabunde Airstrip in Homa Bay Town has been dormant with flight companies which previously flew on the route withdrawing citing few passengers.

Blue Sky Aviation, Silverstone, Fly 540 and East African Safari Air all found the route uneconomical.

Recently, Mombasa Air Safari in collaboration with Great Airways Limited introduced a few flights between Wilson Airstrip and Kabunde.

The county government said it will take advantage of the new flight to market itself and sustain air travel between the capital city and the lakeside county to boost economic activities in the county.

Water and Environment Executive Dickson Nyawinda and Tourism Chief Officer Moses Buriri who unveiled the flight said the county government is engaged in a number of projects to ensure air transport in Homa Bay is sustained.

This is besides plans by Kenya Airport Authority (KAA) to expand the airstrip from a current runway of 1.2 kilometers to 1.7 kilometers to accommodate larger flights.

Mr Buriri said Homa Bay County has many tourist attraction sites which have not been fully tapped adding that revival of the airstrip will open up the county for visits.

For example, Ruma National park which is the only home to roan antelopes is mainly visited by foreign tourists.

Entry fee for an adult is Sh 250 and Sh 125 for a child.

But despite the law rates, officers at the park register a few tourists every day.

“Sites like Lake Simbi Nyaima and Lake Victoria islands are great tourist attraction sites yet our people don’t visit them. The county government wants to take advantage of these sites to attract more tourists. We must not all go to Masai Mara or Mombasa to enjoy ourselves, Kenyans should visit Homa Bay, too,” he said.

To travel by air from Homa Bay to Nairobi, one must first travel by road to Kisumu International Airport.

From Homa Bay Town, the journey takes at least two hours.

The same journey from Migori takes three hours.

Homa Bay County government is determined to encourage all travelers from South Nyanza who wish to travel to the capital city by air to use Kabunde Airstrip.

Mr Nyawinda announced that the devolved unit through a support from the Belgium government is undertaking a project to supply the airstrip with water that can be used in case of an emergency and for sanitation.

Currently the airstrip relies on water supplied by bowsers.

“Kabunde airstrip should have constant water supply that can be used to put out fires. A project of distributing clean water to this airstrip is at 55 per cent complete,” Mr Nyawinda said.

Mombasa Air Safari operators said they plan to venture further into other counties across South Nyanza and dominate the market unlike other companies which withdrew from the route.

Mr Fredrick Onyango, a representative of the company said they have introduced a 13 seater aircraft at Kabunde as a start with plans of introducing a larger aircraft that can carry more people.

 The flight will operate in the morning on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

“We will operate in the morning and evening if the number of passengers goes up. Our strategy is to encourage passengers from Kisii, Migori, Bomet and Nyamira to use Kabunde Airstip when traveling to Nairobi instead of going to Kisumu,” Mr Onyango said.

Other Airstrips in South Nyanza region are in Migori and Suneka in Kisii County which are under rehabilitation.

Airstrip Manager Wycliffe Kadoya said KAA has compensated families that were displaced to facilitate expansion of the runway.

FEATURED PHOTO: Passengers alight from a plane operated by Mombasa Air Safari at Kabunde airstrip in Homa Bay town. The flight operates between Wilson Airstrip and Kabunde Airstrip. PHOTO/George Omondi.

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