Hot Air Balloon Ride over Maasai Mara in Kenya
August 4, 2021
One of the things that we had wanted to do during our safari was to take a hot air balloon ride over the amazing scenery of Africa. Three of the parks that we visited had balloon companies that offered balloon rides, Amboseli, Serengeti, and Maasai Mara. We decided to wait until Maasai Mara to do the balloon ride and it certainly turned out to be a magical experience. Watching the sunrise, seeing the animals, and simply gliding above the grasslands made for memories that we will never forget. Following the balloon ride was a champagne breakfast at the base of an acacia tree and then our guide picked us up to view the animals within the park.
Balloon rides are not particularly inexpensive as they range from $450 to $500 USD per person and we weren’t a hundred percent sure that we were going to spend the money on it. By the time we reached Maasai Mara, we had already had an unexpected expense of getting tested for COVID before we could re-enter Kenya. We were definitely glad that we decided to go ahead and bite the bullet and pay for the balloon ride. It is one of those experiences that is hard to fully describe, but one that is often treasured by people for a variety of reasons.
Just before the sun began to rise, the staff of the balloon company began to fill the balloon with heated air and we were treated to the balloon glow as it was slowly filled. Once the balloon was completely filled, we and the seven other passengers, plus the pilot and guide, all climbed into the basket. Then we slowly ascended to begin our balloon ride as the sun slowly climbed above the horizon. Since the course that the balloon takes is dependent on the winds, there is no guarantee as to what you’re going to fly over or what animals you might see. The basket of the balloon was divided into six compartments, so you aren’t able to move around, but we were fortunate enough to be facing the direction that the balloon was drifting for most of our ride.
The pilot of the balloon provided information about the balloon as well as the animals as we flew over the grasslands. He purposely kept the basket relatively close to the ground so that the animals could be easier to see. Our favorite moment of the balloon ride was when we drifted over a male lion that was walking among the tall grass. Every time the pilot fired the hot air for the balloon, the lion roared in response, which was really quite fascinating to see and hear. In addition to the lion, we flew over a large herd of water buffalo, a pack of elephants, zebras, and antelopes. We also saw another balloon enjoying a similar ride as our own.
Before landing, the pilot prepared us for the possibility it being bumpy and even the possibility that the basket would get dragged onto its side. All of us took our seats and held onto the safety straps, but the pilot set the balloon down gently and we came to quick stop without any bumps. From there we joined our fellow passengers as we toasted with champagne and enjoyed a buffet breakfast right there in the middle of the park. It was an incredible start to what would turn out to be one of the most memorable days of our entire safari.