, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 12 – The Kenya Wildlife Service has been granted a commercial licence to fly tourists to Northern Kenya for one year.
The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) granted KWS the licence, which restricts flights to areas around Sibiloi National Park in Turkana, Marsabit National Park and Malka Mari National Park on the Ethiopia-Kenya border between Mandera and Moyale.
"We are pleased that the non-scheduled passenger air service licence provides us with an opportunity to play a leading role in opening up parts of the country that are remote yet significant; where other commercial air operators don\’t fly. We are excited at the prospects of enabling tourists and researchers to access the cradle of mankind around Lake Turkana," a statement from KWS issued on Monday read in part.
The statement further indicated that other air operators were expected to begin flights to the region once the KWS service proved viable.
Most of Kenya\’s tourism is concentrated on the southern circuit around Amboseli and the Maasai Mara, leaving enormous potential in the Northern and Western regions virtually untouched.
The KWS Airwing, based at the Wilson Airport in Nairobi runs 12 aircraft and has 14 pilots, which on average cost the service Sh4.5 million per month to sustain.
KCAA is finalising the process of approving a seven-seater helicopter, 13-seater caravan and four-seater Cessna aircraft for the non-scheduled passenger air services.
The commercial service is meant to help the KWS Airwing, a critical ingredient in Kenya\’s efforts to protect and manage wildlife raise revenue to meet part of its costs for conservation work.
It is also meant to open up to tourists some of the least visited national parks in remote areas of the country, as part of Kenya\’s Vision 2030, which has tourism as one of its core pillars.
KWS has nine other aircraft for anti-poaching and conservation work permanently stationed in Nakuru, Tsavo, Lamu, Meru, Marsabit and Aberdare National Parks.
Two of the KWS pilots have Airline Transport Pilot Licenses while four have the Commercial Pilot Licence. Besides these, KWS has five reserve pilots, including Mr Joe Obrian, the Swiss Ambassador to Kenya.
Meanwhile, Mr Udoto said in the statement that KWS planned to get an aircraft to be stationed in Kitale to cover conservation efforts in the Western region. All the other conservation areas have aircraft.