Lions at Tiger Bay


By Debbie Carter


I have noticed that our darling Mitch has relayed a few of his experiences on this site.. I learned from flying from that. I thought I might tell a story. Not so much that I learned from flying from it … more so that I learned from flying in Africa from it…

It was a horribly “guttie” (sp) day and was wet and low level overcast. My duty that day was to fly 7 fishermen to Tiger Bay for what they hoped would be an amazing weeks worth of fishing. I knew the Tiger Bay strip well, and I also knew the Piper Navajo which I was flying that day.
We landed with no event. I noticed the strip was soggy and very wet. We stopped incredibly quickly, but props, undercarriage, pilot etc were all OK. My wonderful bunch of fishermen alighted with all their kit and were transferred into at least 6 landrovers. They waved goodbye to me with great bravado and I wished them the best of luck.

Here in lies the first mistake. It is always normal at a bush strip for the land vehicle to ensure that the said aircraft gets safely airborne before they leave the area. Well not one of them did that, they all drove away into the distance.

I was concerned about the condition of the strip. I decided that as the aircraft was now very light, I would try and take off from the 3/4 to mid section of the strip, which had more gravel. I taxied to my turning point applied left throttle and right rudder and simply sunk like a boat in water into about a metre of mud. The props started flicking up mud onto the windscreen, so I quickly shut the engines down, as the aircraft sunk deep into the mud. It was over, I wasn’t going anywhere and neither was there anyone to assist me.

The temperature (OAT) was 40c and I didn’t have any water – only the left over water from my fishermen most of which had whisky in. I tried endlessly to relay but there were not many aircraft in the sky that day due to the weather.

Then the worst happened – nature called and I just had to go and had actually considered walking the long and lonely trek through the bush back to the camp on my own. The door on the Navajo is a beast to handle. I lowered the stairs and left the upper door down and stooped out. I walked a couple of metres… and then lo and behold, not far ahead of me in the bush was a lioness and her crouchy ┬áhusband and cousins and kids and everything. There must have been a dozen of them. The lioness sat up when she saw me … I cannot describe how I felt in that instant but I think it is obvious. I walked slowly back the few metres I had covered and tried to go up the stairs backwards – banging my head very badly on the lowered top door.

How I closed that door I will never know. The lions continued to walk around the aircraft for a further hour, until I eventually managed to get a relay through Speedbird (BA) about my predicament. Its a long story, I know, but I got to spend 3 glorious days fishing and sunbathing at Tiger Bay. I am not too fond of those who drove the landrovers xxx




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