The Maasai Mara game reserve has received a major boost after the government launched the upgrading of Angama Airstrip to International Airport in a bid to directly connect foreign tourists to the world-famous game reserve.
The rehabilitation sponsored by the Government of Kenya is expected to be carried out in three phases before becoming a fully operational international airport with the first phase costing Sh 278 million.
The ground-breaking ceremony held at Angama Airstrip was attended by three principal secretaries Tourism PS Sabina Kwekwe, Transport PS Solomon Kitungu and Youth Affairs PS Charles Sunkuli.
Also in attendance was Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) Managing Director Alex Gitari, Narok County Governor Samuel Tunai and Narok County Commissioner Evans Achoki.
PS Kitungu announced the first phase that will take 12 months will entail rehabilitating the existing 1260 meters long runway and expansion of the width from 18 meters to 25 meters to facilitate code C aircraft operations.
Also expected to be done in the first phase include repainting and fencing of the airport to boost security.
In the second phase, the existing runway will be expanded from 1260 meters to 2500 meters length and the width expanded from 23 meters to 30 meters. Also, the second phase will entail construction of a Very Important Person (VIP) lounge.
In the third phase, the government will construct a new runway of 3300 meters long, 45 meter wide and terminal points.
PS Kwekwe said Maasai Mara Game Reserve is an important tourist destination with 11 airstrips in the entire ecosystem.
She said the building of the airport will connect tourists all over the world to the popular game reserve as it will boost accessibility and be the most comfortable option for tourists.
“This development we have witnessed today will go along in promoting the brand Kenya. We wish to call upon KAA to continue with this job by opening airports in major areas where tourism is key so that they can be equally linked between themselves and other parts of Kenya,” she said.
Kwekwe reiterated that the government had demonstrated its focus in improving infrastructure in the country adding that the ministry of Tourism and that of Transport were working together to promote tourism in the country.
KAA MD said in the last two years, his department has used over Sh 10billion to improve air connectivity in the country.
He cited some of the ongoing works in Migori, Kakamega, Nanyuki and Lamu saying they are expected to boost connectivity in the country.
Governor Tunai thanked the government for the project saying before visitors connecting to the Serengeti National Park in the neighbouring country Tanzania had to travel to Nairobi to get a plane to Tanzania.
By Ann Salaton