Review: Air Kenya, Twin Otter, Nairobi Wilson – Ngrende Airstrip, Kenya

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It’s not every day that you get to take a propeller plane into the Maasai Mara. Unlike South Africa, most of Kenya’s National Parks are best accessed by air. This made an air connection essential in order to see any wild animals. This outlines our experience booking and travelling from the city to the Serengeti.


This post is one chapter on our trip to South Africa, a Safari in the Maasai Mara in Kenya and Mauritius. This trip was redeemed through Air Canada’s Aeroplan and through Starwood Preferred Guest (Marriott Bonvoy) and Hyatt Gold Passport. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Review: Air Kenya Twin Otter, Nairobi Wilson – Ngrende Airstrip, Kenya.

Our car transfer service with Pamoja tours arrived to the Fairmont Norfolk about 30 minutes early at the Fairmont Norfolk. The front desk was kind enough to call the room to advise us of their arrival. We headed down and checked out. A different driver was waiting for us today. 

There are essentially two major domestic air carriers serving between Nairobi Wilson airport and Ngrende Airstrip: Air Kenya and Safari Link. After a little internet research, we decided on Air Kenya as they had a smaller over weight baggage fee than Safarilink which we felt we may have had to use at some point. You’ll want to avoid Mombasa Air Services (if they are still in operation) after they had a fatal crash departing Ngrende Air Strip in 2012.

The Wilson airport is similar to any private airpark in that there is no main terminal building, but many smaller hangars owned by the various air companies. You will need to provide the air company to the car transfer service as otherwise you won’t find your taxi as the buildings and hangars are quite spread out around the perimeter of the Wilson airport.

On arrival to the Wilson airport, a security check was conducted for all checked and hand baggage. The weight limit of Air Kenya was 15 kilograms per passenger. On our visit, both our bags were weighed together on the same scale (adding together the allotted weight). Those that were slightly overweight, may be able to take advantage of their travel companion’s unused allowance as the cases were weighted together. Curiously hand luggage (laptops bags and purses) were not weighed. The baggage tagging was the old fashioned style with pre-printed luggage tags.

Air Kenya Wilson Airport Terminal
Air Kenya Check In Reception

We presented our passports to check in. We were given baggage claim tags and re-useable boarding cards. 

Air Kenya Boarding Cards
Air Kenya Airport Map

We proceeded through a security screening into holding lounge which had a coffee shop and small retail store of mostly women’s clothing. 

Air Kenya Wilson Airport Departure Board
Convenient Wildebeest Migration Chart

From the general waiting area, there was a great view of aircraft operations immediately next to Kenyan Police Hangar and a United Nations Canada Air Regional Jet parked on the other. There appeared to be a school tour on today as well…

A school tour by Wilson Airport
United Nations CRJ
Flying Doctors Hangar

Time to board. We were escorted out to the tarmac in a large group. Equipment type today was a Twin Otter. MrsWT73 sadly remarked that there “would be no bubbles on today’s flight”. Indeed we were lucky to get any food and beverage at all with today’s catering.

Air Kenya Twin Otter
On Board Air Kenya Twin Otter
The Tail Cabin: Air Kenya Twin Otter

The in flight safety briefing was conducted by captain. Accompanied on this trip with a first officer. Our flight plan today was at 10,000ft. Twelve out of fourteen passengers en route to Ngrende Airstrip today. No 3 letter airport sign here, just GPS co-ordinates.

On climb out, had to wait for several smaller aircraft waiting to use runway. 

Climb took us out over Kiberia Slum then westward to Ngrende. Flight was bumpy due to clouds at our particular elevation.

Overlooking Nairobi

Our in flight service consisted of wrapped sweets that were passed around in a tupperware contained, with bottled water available in the cooler at the back of the plane (self service). 

Before we knew it, we were in the middle of nowhere without a sealed road to be found.

Over Rural Kenya

Landing at Ngrende Airstrip:

We had a very gradual descent into Ngrende. A hard left turn and we were approaching the airstrip. I deliberately neglected to inform MrsWT73 that we were not landing on a paved sealed runway with an ILS but rather a dirt strip. She dealt with it pretty good. A short stop on the dirt runway with a U turn at the end and we were ready to disembark.

Getting off the plane, we got our first look at Ngrende airstrip. We were met by Fairmont representatives who assisted with the unloading and escorting of baggage off the plane. The plane remained “HOT” during the unloading process with propellers running at idle speed on the right side of the aircraft.

Ngrende Airstrip
Disemarkation at Ngrende Airstrip
Ngrende Airstrip marker

My Last Thoughts on Air Kenya:

Overall, Air Kenya was a great way to get to our safari. Purchase of the flights was handled via the website without incident or complications. The equipment was upgraded with current avionics and their flights operated two man crews (pilot and co-pilot). I would happily choose them again if we returned to the Maasai Mara.


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