This is an updated version of a previous Hot Air Balloon Safari blog post. I have updated the text and the video to include images from multiple hot air balloon safaris in the Mara.
On Safari – Hot Air Ballooning
One of the options that I enjoy on a safari in Kenya is a hot air balloon ride across the Masai Mara. Oh, my goodness what a fun and fantastic adventure.
Photography in a Hot Air Balloon
I’d never been in a hot air balloon before, and while I thought it would be fun, I assumed that photographing from the balloon would not be that great. I was wrong, mostly because I didn’t realize how precise these flying machines are. We soared to several thousand feet and then back down to perhaps 50 feet or so to get a good look at the wildlife. The cheetah cub photograph is among my favorite images of the entire safari! It was very smooth sailing; I have been in far worse airplane rides. The flight is eerily quiet until the pilot hits the burners and then it is hot and loud.
About the Hot Air Balloon Safari Flight
The trip itself is simple enough although I will say that getting in and out of the basket was not that simple. You climb the 3-foot tall basket that has holes that you can place your feet. If you have short legs, they have some steps to help. The staff on the ground are tremendous and, they will gladly help get you in the basket.
The pilot/guide was a lot of fun in a Disney Jungle Cruise sort of way, and you already know I love that ride! He did a super job spotting wildlife and explaining what was going on during the flight. The landing or as it is more correctly called, the “controlled crash” was bumpy, but we didn’t drag very far, and we didn’t tip over (a possibility) either, so I’d say it was very successful!
You can’t use a tripod, there is not very much space flying in the 8 or 12 person basket, and they are fussy about things that may puncture the balloon or the person next to you! I highly recommend a neck strap for your camera. One passenger apparently dropped her phone overboard, so keep that in mind.
My flight was nearly 2 hours because we had abnormally light wind. In fact, we had to climb to over 8000 feet to get favorable flying winds. I kept a GPS track, and so I know that our average speed was 7.8mph, and the max was 23.5mph. We flew 15.77 miles, and our max altitude was 8075 feet. Here is what it looks like on Google Earth. If you would like to see it live on Google Earth, you can download my kml file.
Masai Mara Hot Air Balloon Experience
I’ve done this a couple times, and it was fun and exciting and beautiful! As with all game drives the photography can vary wildly, but that isn’t really the point, it’s a unique experience, and if you’ve been to the Mara and have yet to go on a balloon trip, I would encourage you to go for it!
Rather than go on a morning game drive, you will be picked up at the camp and taken to the hot air balloon launch site. Just before dawn (you’ll be leaving your bed early!) you’ll lift off and glide above the plains of the Masai Mara for an hour or more depending on the winds, and once you crash errr, I mean land, you’ll be treated to a freshly cooked hot breakfast with champagne of course! After brunch, you’ll be driven back to the camp in time for more food and your afternoon activities.
About the Balloon
The hot air balloons in the Masai Mara are huge, among the largest in the world and five times the size of a typical hot air balloon. Check this out!
- Capacity – 420,000 cubic hot air
- Passengers – max 16 plus the pilot
- Lift – 34,000 lbs – 17 tons!
When to Hot Air Balloon
I have done the hot air balloon flight during the green season in February and March and during the migration in fall. The influx of migrating wildlife makes the spectacle is even more magnificent in fall, but in the spring the Mara is green and lush. So just do it no matter when you are there!
Come Fly with Me!
There is an option to fly in a hot air balloon on all of my Porini Camp safaris which means all of my Kenya safaris can include the Masai Mara hot air balloon flight experience!
Have You Been Ballooning?
Leave me a comment and let me know if you’ve gone ballooning in Africa; I’d love to hear what you thought! Oh, and you can also ask questions about the Hot Air Ballooning or joining me on a safari!