Namibian Part 135 safari operator Scenic Air has taken delivery of a second Quest Kodiak which will be used to transport tourists to game reserves around Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The company operates from its headquarters in Windhoek and has a second base in Swakopmund to the west. It also flies Cessna Caravans.
Says MD Mike Böttger: “The Kodiaks are mainly used for flight safaris all around southern Africa, excluding South Africa. We do daily routes around Namibia where we pick up tourists and drop them at lodges or pick them up and take them back to the main centres.
“Although we use both the Kodiak and the Caravan for these missions, they are suited to slightly different applications. I believe the Kodiak is a purpose-built bush aircraft, and about 90 per cent of the runways that we land on are off the beaten track rough strips. The Kodiak requires a shorter distance to take off and land than the Caravan, which gives it the edge, and it has six inches more propeller clearance so that the prop doesn’t take such a hammering from the gravel and the stones. Moreover, the Kodiak has a 20 kt speed advantage over the Caravan, so on an average 170-180 nm leg you certainly notice the difference.”
Although Böttger’s licence enables him to operate in South Africa, he doesn’t operate there as he believes there is little to be gained from that market, and prefers to concentrate on Namibia. He is also pleased at the growing interest tourists are taking in the country. “I think tourism is doing well here for a number of reasons,” he explains. “We are a rand-based economy, so our dollar tracks the South African rand, and the rand has declined in value quite significantly against the pound and the dollar. This has made Namibia a very competitive tourist destination from a pricing point of view. But I also think that Namibia is suddenly popping up on the international radar screens. It is quite an interesting place; we have had a whole host of movies filmed here in recent times, and people are starting to discover the place as an attractive destination and location for wildlife.
“At the moment we are completely booked out for the remainder of this year, and the majority of next year too,” Böttger continues. “When you are purchasing aircraft, this is a nice position to be in. We are not the only ones doing this sort of thing, but we have certainly gone from the smallest operator on the block to one of the more well-known charter operators here in our industry.”