Balloon safari is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, clearly not one recommended to those who want to take close-up pictures of the animals, but certainly the ideal for those who want to live an exciting experience and enjoy the vastness of this area from a viewpoint other than the one from a safari jeep.
Balloon safaris in the Masai Mara National Reserve
A hot air balloon safari over Masai Mara National Reserve is a truly exhilarating experience.
As the balloon takes off, an all-round view opens up over the magnificent Masai Mara plains and the Mara river and in the far distance you can see Southwards the Serengeti National Park.
In the months of the Great Migration, you can spot herds of wildebeests moving from an area to another in an endless line.
The departure is generally from the lodge or tented camp before dawn on a 4x4 safari jeep that takes you to the point where the hot air balloons are parked; watching the inflation and preparation of the balloon is also an incredible experience as the sky starts to brighten up.
The ground crew starts inflating the balloon using a large fan and when it is half inflated, they fix the basket and the burner to completely fill the balloon with air; the burner light is diffused all around and warms up the morning cold air.
When the balloon is fully inflated the burner is turned off and the crew helps passengers aboard; the basket is sectioned into multiple compartments for passengers’ greater comfort and safety and also to balance the load – usually the basket can accommodate 16 guests; when everyone is set, the burner is switched on again, and you feel the balloon aloft the ground driven by air currents.
It flies over areas where safari vehicles cannot ride; the altitude of the balloon flight varies depending on wind and weather conditions, sometimes it rises high in the sky and you can see the plains, hills and waterways for miles as far as the eye can see; while at other times it remains closer to earth, giving you close-up views of the animals, such as giraffes, elephants, lines of marching wildebeests and zebras, during the Great Migration time, antelopes and, with a bit of luck, even predators, such as lions, hyenas and cheetahs.
The silence is surreal, interrupted occasionally by the burner noise that pushes fresh air into the balloon; a trip usually lasts between an hour and an hour and a half and, once back on the ground, breakfast and champagne are served.