There are not many things out there that can excite you as much as a hot air balloon ride. Lazily gliding high up among the clouds with the world beneath you is a feeling that can’t be described in words. What takes things up another notch is living that same experience in Kenya. The crisp fresh air, muted earthy colors, and the lovely view of the ground below dotted with wildlife is something you can only experience in Maasai Mara. If you are eyeing Kenya for your next adventure trip, then here is what you need to know about planning a hot air balloon safari in Maasai Mara.
What is a Hot Air Balloon Safari?
You know about the usual Safari tours in Africa. You get into a vehicle that takes you on a tour of the plains. You get to see animals living in their natural habitat. Occasionally some giraffe might come up close to your vehicle to say hello. Now imagine all this in a hot air balloon gliding silently above the open plains. The experience is amazing and no animals are bothered by your vehicle.
Before you book a balloon flight, you should know that these excursions are made possible by hot air filling the balloon, and this is what makes it rise in the sky. Once in the air, the wind gently pushes your balloon in whichever direction it sees fit, so unfortunately you can’t ask the pilot for stopovers or to go to a specific destination. All you need to do is enjoy the trip, take amazing pictures, and wait until the pilot reduces the air for a smooth landing. Most hot air balloon safaris in Maasai Mara are kept close to the ground as it allows amazing photography opportunities and a closer view of the animals.
What to Expect on a Balloon Safari in Maasai Mara
Most Balloon Safari operators in Kenya follow almost the same routine. Booking with a reputable tour operator like Far and Wild Travel is advisable. These operators will know the best places to take off from depending on things like wind direction and wildlife in the area for that time of year. Usually, balloon flights take off early, so be prepared to still be a little groggy.
Thinking back to when I went on my first safari balloon flight, it was quite amazing to see the huge balloon towering in front of us. With a searing sound, the balloon operator kept adding hot air to the balloon and it was an empowering sight to behold. During my safari, I wanted to see and learn more about hot air balloons. There was excitement everywhere. I went up to the crew to have a nice chat with them, they were friendly and we talked about what to expect in the flight.
Ready for the Launch
We got ready for the launch. I was still hoping I placed the camping gear in the right place before I left the camp, but I soon forgot camp and focused on the balloon. The pilot was very nice and friendly and guided us through the process. The balloon took off immediately as the sun came out and boy, I felt those butterflies in my stomach. The balloon stayed airborne for the next hour and in that time it rose continuously. I guess we covered around 12 km (about 7.5 miles) during that time. Yes, it was a lazy ride and worth every minute.
There were 360° degrees of the horizon. You can see everything from such a height. The sky met with the ground and it was such a colorful sight that could inspire any artist to draw a masterpiece. I remember having a similar view from Burj Khalifa when I was in Dubai. The only difference was there were buildings and a distant sea around me in Dubai, but here it was just the open land filled with animals living peacefully. It is one of these things that makes you wonder about how fast life in the cities is. You get a lot of thoughts when you are on a hot air balloon safari in Africa.
A Balloon Ride Ends with Champagne
Our balloon flew just above treetops so we could see the wildlife below. Occasionally it rose to a height of 1,000 ft (300 meters) for an enchanting view of the ground below. We could see the land dotted with wildlife. Some lions were simply lazing around, a bunch of giraffes plucked leaves from the top branches of trees, and zebras drank water from a pond. All this provided an excellent opportunity for some great pictures.
We were served with a delicious breakfast after the landing. Since it was over firewood, it had a unique aroma. After such a delightful trip, it was lovely to have a warm breakfast waiting for you. The breakfast was also accompanied by nice chilled champagne.
A Nice Surprise
Now here is the interesting part. The hot air balloon never brought us back to the camp. The pilot told us that it can’t ride against the true wind. So, what did we get instead? A chance to ride back in a 4×4 safari vehicle. The ride was short but enjoyable. We had a chance to see numerous animals along the way. It was the best of both worlds. We were also given a certificate of participation by mid-morning and it was awesome to bring some certification of our achievement back home.
A Trip to Remember
I hope you enjoyed coming along on my hot air balloon safari in Kenya. It was worth every penny. If you are planning to visit Kenya, do give the balloon safari a shot. It makes a bucket list trip even more memorable.
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