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 most Safari companies. 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. The Mara has long been considered the ultimate ballooning location by hot air enthusiasts- and it’s easy to see why. Perfect flying conditions are matched by expansive big sky, incredible views to enjoy whichever you turn, and Kenya’s world famous big game below the basket.
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.
Guests are driven to meet their balloons which are inflated with the gradual release of hot air from the burners, the balloon slowly taking shape and rising high above the darkened plains, their illuminated core matched by the first rays of sunrise on the horizon.
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 Rift valley is one of nature’s wonders, easily visible from outer space. The valley stretches 6000 kms from Jordan to Mozambique, with its width varying from between 30 to 100 kms.
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.
Rising from the floor, you can appreciate the entire Rift, both its vast entirety and the many natural elements and ecosystems that bring the valley to life.
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.
The balloon safari over the rift valley launches at dawn, rising with the sun over the sprawling plains of Delamere before skimming low across the shores of Lake Elmenteita.
Some of the best Balloon Safaris in Kenya
The thing that amazes most first-time balloonists is the absolute stillness, the silence as you float above the plains, the forest and the rivers of theMasai Mara.For an hour or so you drift wherever the air currents take you.More
The aims of the orphanage were to release the animals into the wild whenever possible, provide conservation education to Kenyans and visitors from all over the world.More
When Karen Blixen bought the property, it had 6,000 acres of land but only 600 acres were developed for growing coffee; the rest was retained under natural forest.More
Here two English families Mitchell & McDonnell in the early 1900's built this Estate. These families are said to be the first to have ventured into the tea business.
Lake Nakuru National Park is known for its very shallow alkaline lake with the huge crowds of flamingo, landscape of marsh and grasslands alternating with rocky cliffs, stretches of acacia woodland and rocky hillsides of the EuphorbiaMore
Carnivore Restaurant is Africa’s Greatest Eating Experience, a barbeque not only serving normal beef, pork and chicken but also game meat like Giraffe, Zebra, Crocodile, Hartebeest, Ostrich and a wide variety of vegetarian dishes.More
A game reserve with views across the plains and snow capped peaks of Mt. Kenya, floodlit waterhole for excellent and secluded rarely seen gameincluding the big five. Night game drives, Chimpanzee viewing.More
Wondering More about Balloon Safaris in Kenya
You trip begins when you get your wake up call at your safari lodge or tented camp in the early hours of the morning, as you yawn away, and thoughts about your wildlife viewing from an elevated position begins to stir your mind. The fresh Kenyan traditional hot tea and coffee quickly awaken you, in fact preparing you for a “mission”. Price range from $ 395 per person
Schedule of Kenya Balloon safaris:
5:00 am: Collection from your Masai Mara lodge or camp, and transfer you by Land rover to the launch site. Here you will meet your pilot, receive a briefing and watch the inflation of your balloon.
At dawn take off, rising as the sun rises and float in whichever direction the winds of the morning take you. Your pilot can precisely control the altitude of your balloon: sometimes flying at treetop height, sometimes lower, offering a unique perspective and great photographic opportunities of the wildlife below.
At other times he will ascend to 1000′ or more to see the enormity and wonderful panorama of the Masai Marai. From time to time the pilot must put more heat into the balloon with the powerful whisper burners. In between these burns, there is silence apart from the natural sounds below.
The flight is for about one hour depending on conditions, on landing you celebrate in the traditional manner with champagne (well, an excellent sparkling wine), before sitting down to a full English breakfast prepared and served in the bush in ‘Out of Africa’ style with bone china, linen table cloths, King’s silver etc.
After breakfast you receive your Balloon certificate and we drive you back to the Lodge or camp with game viewing enroute. 9:30 am Arrive at the lodge/camp ready to continue your day’s activities.
There are two hot air balloons each with a capacity of carrying 12 passengers and each flying once in a day. They start rising at dawn as the sun rises and thus floating in response to the wind direction.
The altitude of the hot air balloon is subject to the control of the pilot who can push it up to 1,000 ft in the interest of an exciting panoramic view of the park, or at lower altitudes for the sake of taking photographs of the wildlife. An early flight above River Mara will offer you an opportunity to spot and photograph animals drinking along the river.
These animals include lions, leopard, cheetahs, buffaloes, elephants, hippos, wildebeest, warthog, zebra, giraffe, baboons, monkeys and a vast bird population.
As the pilot of Kenya Balloon safaris continues adding more heat in the hot air balloon from time to time, the burners make a gentle roar and this a great chance for one to take photographs-but as you drift forward silence sometimes reigns. Throught this period there is nothing to disturb you from taking photographs as you travel on a vibration-free platform.
Before landing the pilot will alert you to keep your cameras and prepare for your landing
Kenya Balloon safaris - About the Ballons – Stand 10 Storeys Tall
Made by Cameron Balloons of Bristol, England, our balloons last about 400 flying hours in the fierce African sun, which means they must be replaced every 2 years.They are twice the size of Double Eagle II, the balloon the Americans used to successfully cross the Atlantic in August 1978.
Kenya Balloon safaris - Specs
The larger of Kenya balloons, the Cameron A315, stands as high as a ten storey building, measures 100 feet across at it’s equator and has a volume of 315,000 cubic feet ( 9000 cubic metres).
The A315 is among the largest operational balloons in the world. At sea level it has a lift capability of over two tons ( 2000kgs), although in Africa they carry only a maximum of 12 passengers and the pilot.
The balloon ‘envelope’ is made of a nylon based fabric superior to that of a spinnaker sail.
The basket is made of woven cane and willow by expert craftsmen in the Royal Workshops for the Blind in Bristol. The design has not been surpassed in over a hundred years of balloon flight as there are few other materials that combine strength with resilience for so little weight.
Kenya Balloon safaris - Flight Control – one of the safest forms of flight
The balloon’s lift comes from hot air which is slightly lighter than the surrounding cold atmosphere. The hotter the balloon the faster it rises. As the balloon cools it slowly descends.
The pilot can control the balloon to brush the grass or the tops of trees, yet could if he wished, go as high as 15,000 feet. However, our flying is kept more down to earth.
They do not fly the balloons in winds greater than 15 mph ( 30kph) so the calm African mornings are the perfect time for our flights. The balloons must go where the winds take them but, as winds at varying heights often have varying directions, the pilot can choose his height and hence his direction.
Kenya Balloon safaris - Fuel
The balloon is “powered” by ordinary cooking gas to heat the air in the envelope.
The fuel system is duplicated in every respect to prevent failure of the burner. If all power should be lost however,( something which has, in fact, never happened) the balloon would enter a stable cold descent with the envelope acting as a parachute. This feature of the balloon makes it one of the safest forms of flight.
Kenya Balloon safaris - The Pilot
To pilot a balloon, it is necessary to gain a pilots licence exactly as with other forms of aircraft. There is a set number of hours of instruction and the same theoretical exams to pass as any fixed wing pilot.
Also like their fixed wing counterparts, balloon pilots keep logs books, carry out pre-flight checks and monitor the weather conditions for safe flying.
In addition, all Kenya Balloon Safaris pilots have undergone extensive professional training and worked as commercial balloon pilots around the world.