The Ukunda airstrip, Diani Beach’s main aviation link to the rest of Kenya and preferred takeoff point for tourists going on safari using light aircraft, is due for a runway expansion it was learned.
Local visitors from Nairobi, when visiting the coast, have the option to fly from Wilson Airport with daily scheduled flights by Safarilink helping to avoid the traffic bottleneck of going via Mombasa and being subjected to the potholes, uncollected garbage and often long delays at the Likoni Ferry, plus the added driving time. The runway length at present is perfect for light single and twin engine aircraft and even larger turboprops with STOL abilities (Short Take Off/Landing) but insufficient for smaller jets like the Embraer E-jets or Bombardier’s CRJ.
The just concluded AFRAA annual general assembly brought the spotlight back on the infrastructure at the Ukunda airfield after some of the delegates suffered at the hands of the Likoni ferry with over a 3-hour delay. Usually well-informed sources confirmed that planning for the runway expansion is well advanced, though the project has not yet reached tender stage.
Wrote the source: “Suffice to say that plans to increase the Ukunda airstrip’s runway length [are] at an advanced stage.” South Coast hoteliers have of late expressed their increasing frustration with central and local governments for the continued lack of a direct road link from the international airport to bypass the notorious Likoni ferry and not only spare visitors the untidy sights around the ferry landings but also get them to their resorts without often hours of delays. It is little wonder that there is increased resistance towards attempts to saddle the hotel industry with yet more taxes while service delivery and infrastructure improvements have been largely absent.