Walkabout: Hot Air Balloon Ride in the Maasai Mara
I had always wanted to go on a hot air ballon ride and when I found out I would have the opportunity to experience this, I could barely contain my excitement.
Where and how much is it and how do you get there?
Hot air balloon rides in Kenya are offered at the Mara and cost USD 400 which is roughly Ksh 40,000. You either drive down there, which is a pretty bumpy and dusty ride but I suppose that is part of the adventure, or you fly down. It’s about a 4 hour drive from Nairobi. There are a couple of options for the balloon ride but they cost rougly the same and offer similar setups so it’s not a big deal who you decide to go with.
What are the logistics?
It’s best to have the hot air balloon ride as part of a wider itinerary as it’s not an activity that can be done on its own due to the logistics involved. Even if you decided to come all the way to the Mara just for the hot air balloon ride, you’d need to get there by at least the night before as you need to be at the launching site by 5.30am.
If at the hotel, you should expect to be up by 4am for the long drive to the launching site. The drive is rough but amazing as you get to spot a range of animals out and about. It is advised that you dress warmly as it’s pretty chilly at that time of the morning and wear closed rubber shoes for better comfort. One of the most beautiful sights was seeing a tower of giraffes; they move in elegant waves.
The launching site
When we got to the launching site, we got to meet our pilots and were given a safety rundown for our flight. We then got to watch the balloon getting filled up. It is huge! The balloons we used carry 16 people so you can imagine the size of one!
The hot air balloon is divided into 4 cozy compartments that sit 4 and there’s a bench to sit on, unlike the balloons in other parts of the world that are smaller and have people standing throughout. I was really nervous about take off because I assumed it would be similar to an airplane which always leaves me with terrible motion sickness. The pilot had us seated for take off and I don’t know how to explain it but none of us felt it. He literally told us to stand up as we were already up in the air and none of us could believe it as we didn’t feel ourselves leaving the ground at all.
The hot air balloon ride
The view is breathtaking, as you can imagine. The flight itself is serenity – it’s as though you are standing still but over 1000 feet in the air. We got to spot various animals while up there but my favourite thing was the perspective. The ground looks like a painting from up there and it’s awe inspiring. It’s the kind of experience you want to fully take in so you can remember every single detail. We also had a wonderful pilot that had us in stitches making the 1.5 hour flight even more memorable. Funny enough, it’s not cold up there mostly because of the heat from the balloon’s propane burners, but it’s still a good idea to dress warmly as 5am in the bush is freezing.
Landing was a little rough but not as terrible as I had imagined it would be. The crew were on hand to help us disembark and we got into vehicles for another hour drive to where the champagne breakfast had been set up. Yes, the hot air balloon ride comes with a champagne breakfast! The drive there was pretty eventful with sightings of hyenas and jackals. I actually realized that I had never seen a hyena in the flesh – they are bigger and scarier than I thought they would be.
The breakfast layout was fantastic. Champagne and a full English breakfast with wait staff and chefs on hand. I could hardly move after breakfast but it was the cherry on the top of an unforgettable morning. The 2 hour drive back to the hotel was pretty much another game drive as we came across more animals.
This is definitely something I would recommend and I am so glad to have ticked it off my bucket list!http://www.mwendengao.com/2017/04/13/walkabout-hot-air-balloon-ride-in-the-maasai-mara/Food and TravelChampagne breakfast,Hot Air Balloon Ride,Kenya,Masai Mara,Safari