Balloon Safaris Kenya: A balloon is the perfect safari vehicle able to glide silently across the plains without disturbing the herds below, and at the flick of a hot air burner the basket can be whisked from a high altitude viewpoint to skim low across the grasslands.
For a truly unique perspective on this spectacular wilderness, dawn Balloon safaris, carried out daily from several lodges, can be booked through us. This incredible once in a lifetime experience offers the visitor a fantastic view of Kenya’s scenic beauty, and the chance to drift unobtrusively over the wildlife below.
Ballon Safari over the Maasai Mara
The Maasai Mara is Kenya’s most impressive landscape – its great game rich plains are iconic Africa at its best. For any visitor to the Mara, the best way to appreciate the Mara is from above, on a dawn balloon flight.
A balloon flight means rising earlier than the usual time for a morning game drive- but it is an early start that is richly rewarded.
Ballon Safari over the Great Rift Valley
The Great Rift Valley is one of the most awe-inspiring sights on earth, but the best way to see the rift is from above, and a balloon safari will literally give you a birds eye view of the valley as you join flocks of flamingo soaring high across lakes, volcanoes and forest.
The valley is at its most spectacular in Kenya, its floor studded with dormant volcanoes and fresh water and soda lakes, attracting a wide range of big game and bird life. When exploring the rift, it is difficult to gain a clear perspective of the scale and sheer size of the valley, which is where a balloon comes in handy.
The launch site is within easy reach of safari lodges and hotels in the Naivasha and Nakuru region, making this an ideal morning excursion for anyone spending the night in this area.
Hot Air Balloon Safari Kenya – An Experience
Arriving at the take-off point, you wonder why you had to get up so early. There’s plenty of activity from a team of men in overalls with torch-lights strapped to their foreheads. But the balloon itself lies limp as a rainbow-coloured pancake. A tangle of ropes streams out behind her, like the fronds of a beached jellyfish. A huge basket is dragged into place.
The ballooners shiver in the chill morning air.
A sudden roar shatters the grey blanket of dawn as a bank of burners fire up, and great dragon-breaths of fire lick into the swelling rainbow belly of the balloon. And very slowly, very steadily she begins to inflate; then bloat, then slowly right herself and rise into the dove pink dawn.
On the ground, the tempo changes. The watching ballooners stuff their cameras into their pockets, zip up their jackets and await the signal to hoist their chilled-stiff bodies into the high-sided basket. There are four compartments; four passengers in each. And it’s only when we’ve settled on our allotted benches and grimaced at the three total strangers squeezed in beside us, that we realise what a rash thing we’ve done. The balloon, now fully inflated above us, is the size of two elephants. And she’s straining on her guy ropes, keen to be off.
Do we really want to do this?
Benignly aware of the rising tide of panic amongst his passengers, the balloon pilot begins his spiel. He tells us in which direction we will be flying. He explains how the balloon can be steered by her guide ropes, and how she can dip down over the river and rise up again into the ether. Unease stirs when the landing is mentioned.
I shall say, ‘no more photographs’, says the pilot, looking round the white-pinched faces, ‘at which point you must put away your cameras, make sure you have nothing hanging around your neck, and take up your landing positions.’ He indicates the loops of rope that hang from the sides of the basket, ‘holding on to the landing ropes’.
We nod grimly.
But by this time a curious form of balloon-bravado has kicked in. We’re all punch drunk. Even when the pilot mentions the three big bumps that will happen on landing we don’t flinch. Or when he mentions that the basket may fall over and drag along the ground.
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It’s too late for all that: we’re along for the ride.
‘Right,’ says the pilot, pulling on a pair of thick leather gloves, ‘lets go.’ He pulls down on the aluminium bars that control the burners, the ground-men cast off the ropes and, with supremely silent grace, the great orange and green bulb rises serenely through the morning mist, flirts with the tree tops, and sails away.
Flying at bird-level in the vastness of avian air space is a novel experience. So is skimming the tree panoply, flying past eagles nests, and peering down into glades where waterbuck browse. The experience has a curious dream-like quality. Only the great gouts of hot air belching into the balloon disturb the silence as we drift over the peacefully plodding elephant herds, and spy on the courtships and clashes taking place in the theatre of wildlife below. The hippos, drawn up on the banks of the river, look like so many well-browned sausages, and breakfast seems a long way off.
The balloon is curiously agile. She swoops down to skim the surface of the river; and hangs suspended over the flurry of hoofs and horns that is a leopard kill. She ascends rapidly and twirls like a lollipop at the pull of the pilot’s guide-ropes. Far below, toiling ant-like in the massive shadow cast by the balloon on the landscape, the cavalcade of support vehicles trails us.
‘Cameras away please,’ says the pilot suddenly. Sixteen stomachs lurch. Amid the soaring magic of our flight we’d forgotten that what goes up must come down. He is suddenly stern; and we are glad — this is serious stuff. ‘Take up landing positions,’ he says. The balloon descends swiftly from on high: she’s moving fast across the scudding landscape. The ground draws ever closer: and looks ever harder. We brace, grab the ropes, clench our teeth, and accept our fate.
Bump number ONE – the basket merely kisses the ground.
Bump number TWO – the basket ploughs through the grass and then hauls herself up again.
Bump number THREE – we’re down.
All tearing, gouging motion stops. There’s a profound silence as we peep timidly over the side of the basket. Behind us, with a sigh of exhalation, the balloon topples away to lie flaccid on the khaki-coloured turf. We don’t know whether to whoop that we’ve made it, or wail that it’s all over.
But it isn’t. Chilled fizz is proffered. A low table has been laid out on the plains, surrounded by erect Maasai spears and set around with folding stools. ‘Welcome to the most expensive breakfast in Africa,’ says the pilot. And we fall on the full British breakfast with adrenaline-fuelled gusto.
Fear, it seems, makes ravening beasts of us all. As for the balloon, no sooner have we turned away from her deflation than she is neatly packed away into her basket and driven away. Trouble is — just one hour of hot air with her and we’re hooked. In fact… we’re basket cases.
Adopted from the Why I Love Kenya Magazine