Expansion of Manda Airport in Lamu County is nearing completion according to the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA).
The passengers are expected to start flying directly to Lamu instead of making cumbersome connection from Nairobi and Mombasa.
So far KAA has already commissioned the terminal building after its completion and is finalising works on the two-kilometre Manda Airport runway.
The new facility, built at a cost 1 billion Kenyan Shilling ($11.5 million), will see a rise in passengers and aircraft movements. According to Lamu Airport Manager Mohamed Lipi, the passenger numbers are expected to double over the next few years. In 2014, passengers stood at nearly 36,500.
The expansion of the Lamu Airpot involves the construction of a two-kilometre runway to allow larger aircraft to land, a new terminal building, additional water supplies and fencing, and a new fire station.
The Manda Airport, which falls under the Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia(Lapsset) transport axis, which is part of major government projects earmarked to drive the Kenyan economy into a middle income status by 2030. The Lapsset project which is estimated to cost Sh.300 billion, involves construction of a deep-sea port, an oil refinery in Lamu and an oil pipeline, a highway and a standard gauge railway which will link Lamu with South Sudan’s capital Juba and Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa.
Kenya Airports Authority expects the upgrade to help the port handle more than 5,000 flight operations and serve approximately 80000 passengers annually come year 2030.
The airport 2 kilometre runway will now be able to handle larger aircraft such as Embraer and Boeing 737 and will provide a major link to international passengers that previously had to pass through airports in Nairobi, Mombasa, or Malindi before flying into Lamu using domestic flights.
The old town of Lamu, which is listed on UNESCO world heritage as the oldest Swahili settlement in East Africa, is a major tourist attraction area and the port’s expansion is expected to attract more international and local airlines to fly directly to the port city. The port would also serve as an alternative to Mombasa’s Moi international airport in case the runway there got blocked.
Manda airstrip is a class III airport with fire cover category 5 and situated on Manda Island in the Lamu Archipelago. The unmanned airstrip where pilots have to coordinate among themselves operates between 0600hrs and 1800hrs. It was established between 1962 and 1963 as a landing strip for the colonial administrators, but later developed when white settlers started to tour the area for its beautiful scenery, white-sand beaches, coral reefs and historical Swahili background.