Do you want a truly epic experience when you’re in Kenya? Well, if you visit the Masai Mara, the iconic balloon flight is definitely something not to miss!
I recently created a photo diary of a previous trip to the Mara. I’ve since come across more photos of the balloon safari we did during the same trip. It was truly a magical and unforgettable experience, so I wanted to share a few pictures with you.
Here’s Photo Diary #2!
An early start
To get the best views of the morning sunrise across the plains, means waking up and getting prepared well before sunrise. We took a drive out from our base camp at Kichwa Tembo to the Mara Serena Lodge, where the balloon safari group meets. There are various balloon companies operating in the Mara, so the exact logistics, timings and launch site will depend on the individual tours. Your tour company or lodge will provide all the necessary details.
On arrival at the Serena lodge, we were greeted with some fresh coffee and tea. We met the pilot and a few other guests who were joining our flight. The groups are typically fairly small – in our case, we were lucky to have a group of just 8, including the pilot.
After meeting everyone, we took a ride out to the launch site, where we watched the final balloon preparations taking place.
An epic sunrise
Words simply cannot describe the feeling you get as you lift off the ground in complete silence. It’s almost surreal. There’s no sound, except a few soft voices as everyone becomes struck by the shear beauty all around, and an occasional blast of hot air filling the balloon.
Watching the golden sun rise slowly above the Masai Mara and beyond into the Serengeti Reserve, was a truly a very special and breathtaking experience. As night turned to day, the landscape unfolded into a vast expanse of beautiful grasslands.
We continued to float above the meanders of the Mara river, briefly dropping down towards the water and gorge for a closer look.
First class in flight entertainment
As we explored the river banks, various animals began to emerge. Hippo were plentiful along the river and we spotted giraffe close by. On closer inspection, we could see the heads and bodies of crocodiles partially submerged in the water.
Just in case you are wondering why the water levels look so low, these photos were taken in 2017, following a major drought across the East Africa region.
After following the river for a while, we lifted back up and began cruising over the open savannah. Flying high above the trees gave us totally stunning views. It also allowed us to spot a few carcasses hidden in the treetops – clearly the work of elusive leopard.
Relax and enjoy the flight
These flights typically last around an hour or so, which gave us plenty of time to relax and enjoy the stunning view, in between capturing photos. Binoculars are highly recommended, as you really can see far and wide. Many animals roam in the distance, so having the ability to zoom in and identify them is all part of the safari experience.
We spotted a whole host of wildlife, including elephants, hyena, gazelle, giraffe and cheetah.
From a distance, we spotted two Land Cruisers and a bright red tractor heading towards the landing site. It seemed hard to believe the flight was ending so soon – time really does fly when you’re having fun.
But the experience wasn’t over just yet.
A delicious bush breakfast
After landing (thankfully a very smooth and soft one!) and a quick group photo, we were welcomed by hot towels and a delightful buffet breakfast. There was a selection of delicious, freshly cooked food as well as Champagne (and fruit juice for those of us who don’t drink).
Just being in the middle of the Masai Mara, having breakfast was almost as good as the balloon flight itself. It was certainly the perfect way to end the experience.
After breakfast, we travelled back to Mara Serena via Land Cruiser – a 45 minute or so journey, that also provided further stunning wildlife sightings.
See the video slideshow
Here’s a video slideshow of our experience.
I hope you enjoyed taking a visual balloon journey through the Mara! Of course, nothing can compare to the real thing – if you have an opportunity, I’d really encourage you to take a balloon flight. Most tour companies and lodges will be able to organise this for you. Whilst not really suitable for small children, it’s perfect for couples or older children – if the early start doesn’t put them off!
Watch out for future posts about safari trips, advice on taking a family trips in Kenya and of course, more stories about our adventures. Make sure you sign up below to be notified whenever new content is published!
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