Hot Air Balloon Safari in Mara
It’s an astonishing image: a balloon, framed against the rising sun, overlooking the herds of Masai Mara plains. You could be in that balloon’s basket, creating a memory that will last a lifetime. But you will have to get up early. Having booked your flight, you will be picked up from your lodge or camp in the early hours of the morning, ready to take flight as dawn breaks, if weather permits. As you level out over the Bush, you gain a bird’s eye view of the herds and an awe-inspiring panoramic overview of the wide horizons. After about an hour, your experienced pilot brings the balloon safely to earth. You celebrate the amazing experience with a Bush champagne breakfast. You then have the option to continue the adventure, adding a full day game drive, or return to camp for a leisurely morning or nap.
The adventure begins just before dawn. Departure is from a perfect natural launch site , and flames from the hot air balloon burners light the darkness as the crews inflate their craft. The first pink tongues of sunlight flicker across the skies as the hot air balloon fills, then rises. Suspended in a basket beneath the rainbow-colored canopy, you’re off for a wildlife viewing adventure with an entirely different perspective. What amazes most first-time balloonists is the absolute stillness: the silence as you float above the plains, the forest and the rivers of the Masai Mara.
To get a bird’s eye view of the Mara and go Hot Air Ballooning, it is great fun. The trip is magical: spend about one hour silently floating over the savannah in a hot air balloon and it will fill you with enough memories to last a lifetime. You take off in the wee hours of the morning, float in the sky, drifting with the whim of the wind, overlooking the plains, just in time to experience a breathtaking sunrise and catch a bird’s eye view of the reserve. After the flight, you will be treated to a luxurious breakfast to complete the experience as you relax and absorb the moment.
Even if you’ve flown elsewhere, this is a unique experience. The flight lasts an hour or so, drifting wherever the air currents take you, and with ample opportunities for photography and video filming. Then the Balloon Safari finishes with a flourish. In the time-honored tradition of balloon flights the world over, you toast your return to earth with a delicious breakfast, cooked wherever you land. The Balloon Safari ends with a game drive on your way back to the camp.
The sensation of drifting above the world in silence is second only to the breathtaking views of the plains, forests and The Mara River, drifting wherever the current takes you. The sounds below carry upwards, a lion’s roar, elephants crashing through the bush, screeching baboons looking quizzically upwards.
If you’ve been having second thoughts, now you know. It’s worth every penny you spend on it, as you will get to experience one of the most memorable occasions in your lifetime.
Hot Air Balloon Safari in Tanzania
Your Tanzania balloon safari starts when you are collected from your lodge or special camp. Soon after 6 in the morning, you board the Land Rovers to be taken to the launch site, a journey of some 40 minutes duration, in time to witness the dawn and the inflation of the balloon. After a final pre-flight safety briefing you board for take-off.
An hour predawn drive through the bush to your launch site is a delight in itself. You may see nocturnal animals in the headlights that you could not have encountered any other way. Near a river like Seronera or Grumeti, you may meet grazing hippo. On the plains, a lioness may return from her kill, a hyena slinking in her wake. In the cool early morning, a light-weight long-sleeved jacket and long trousers are a wise idea, with sturdy shoes. Remember to take your binoculars and DSLR camera to make the most of this highlight of your Serengeti excursion.
The huge balloon inflates swaying impatiently as it lifts. The intermittent roaring of the burner reminds you to put on your hat as it can get quite warm overhead. Assistants hold the basket steady, ensuring it remains level during take-off. Then comes the heart-stopping moment when you lose touch with the earth and become part of the dawn. As you ascend, the sky lightens from purple to pink. The sun clears the horizon, flooding the Serengeti plains with golden light.
Your stomach clenches as you look out over your unobstructed basket side to the receding earth. Losing contact with the ground or the feeling of being totally at the mercy of the wind can cause an atavistic shudder. For an hour, you will have no control over where you go or what you see. However skillful your pilot, he can only go where the wind takes him, so you need to accept your helplessness, let yourself experience the enriching sights, sounds and sensations of your flight as well as the emotions it arouses.
The exact direction and duration of the flight depend on the wind and weather conditions of the day but the average flight time is about one hour. Part of the flight will be at an altitude of at least 1 000 feet for magnificent panoramic views of the plains, another part will be at treetop height for unique views of wildlife.
The balloons are equipped with ‘whisper’ burners to minimize the noise of the burns necessary to navigate the balloon. Periods of ‘burn’ are quite a small proportion of the flight so there are many intervals of complete silence. The flight is smooth and feels windless since the balloon is traveling at wind speed. The variety and numbers of animals and birds seen will vary with the time of year, conditions and luck but everything that is seen is from an original and exciting viewpoint.
The pilot will land the balloon near one of the game trails and then share a champagne toast with you. The retrieve crew (who keep in contact with the balloon by radio) will arrive to collect you and pack up the balloon. The rest of the crew, after establishing the landing area for the balloon, will have set up the breakfast table under a tree in a convenient spot on the plains.
A freshly cooked full English-style breakfast is served in an unforgettable setting and then, after receiving your certificate, you will be taken back to the Lodge arriving about 9:30 am. All the aspects of this adventure combine to become an unforgettable memory – possibly the highlight of many passengers’ safari!