Into Africa in Style

More than 50 hours after our planned departure we finally managed to get off the ground.

To meet our new aircraft, which was being flown in from Nassau, we had to relocate from Newark, New Jersey, to John F Kennedy Airport, New York.

We had hours to kill while the crew had to take a mandatory rest after their flight from the Bahamas. The Clinton Foundation arranged for us to have the use of a hotel restaurant near the hanger where we were to board the replacement aircraft.

Eventually the call came for us to head to the airport. Homeland Security sent over two officers to screen us and our carry-on bags in a lounge.

Toward midnight we were driven out to the plane. When we entered it, we could not quite grasp the reality of our new aircraft, especially after what we had been going through over the past couple of days.

Click on the extended entry to see pictures of what this plane looked like.


The central lounge area of our new aircraft

Photograph by David Braun/NGS

From nose to tail, the Boeing was fitted out like a luxury yacht. Private bedrooms, bathrooms with showers, train-like compartments.

I found a large leather recliner in the lounge in the middle of the aircraft. Some of us felt that it was almost worth all the torture of the last two days to be able to fly in such luxury.

The crew confirmed that the plane was used by rock stars and other celebrities. They pointed out where various famous people had sat. They were excited to be part of President Clinton’s safari, even though he was on another plane and already in Africa.

As our flying palace roared into the sky, a television journalist noted that because it was a few minutes after midnight we were already in day four of the eight-day journey.


One of the private bedrooms in the Boeing 707.

Photograph by David Braun/NGS


Changing Planet

Meet the Author
More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn