Hot Air Balloon Safaris in Kenya
Are your balloons safe?
Hot Air Balloon Safaris balloons are manufactured to the highest safety standards possible. Conventional hot air balloons also have the best safety record by far of all forms of aviation.
Is there a minimum age or maximum weight limit?
Hot Air Balloon Safaris does not fly children under the age of 3 years. While they do not have a weight limit, they do request that you let them know in advance if you weigh over 250 pounds, so that we can adjust the weight distribution in the basket if necessary.
How does the pilot control the balloon?
The balloon goes with the wind, but at different altitudes the wind often flows in different directions; by expertly navigating this vertical landscape the pilot finds some directional control. In order to gain or lose altitude, the pilot manipulates the temperature of the air inside the balloon envelope using burners fueled by butane gas.
When heat is added, the balloon rises: add more heat and it rises more quickly. In order to descend, the pilot allows the balloon to cool naturally. The cooler the air inside the balloon becomes the more quickly it descends. Sometimes when the balloon is descending for landing the pilot actually adds some heat to slow down the rate of descent.
Are take-off and landing rough?
Take-off is generally quite gentle, although it may be a bit fast in windy conditions. If the wind is above 15 knots at the take-off site, we will not fly due to safety concerns. About 50% of our landings are what we call a “tip over” landing, where the balloon basket drags along the ground for about 20 meters before coming to a stop lying on its side. There can be a few bumps; however most of our guests experience a much rougher ride in their safari vehicles!
How long is the flight?
Hot Air Balloon Safaris typically fly between 15 to 25 kilometers and the flight lasts about one hour, depending on wind conditions. The entire experience (link to The experience), including transfer to the launch site, flight, breakfast, and game drive back to your lodge or camp, starts at about 5:00AM and finishes at about 10:30AM.
What should I bring with me?
Hot Air Balloon Safaris encourage all guests to carry binoculars and cameras. Hot Air Balloon Safarissuggest closed shoes in case we need to walk through some grass after landing, and dressing in layers is best for the transition from the cool, dark early morning to the relatively hot late morning sun.
Do you ever cancel a flight? What happens if my flight is canceled?
Hot Air Balloon Safaris rarely cancel flights (~5 times per year), and only do so due to high winds, rain, or extremely poor visibility. If your flight is canceled you will receive a 100% refund. Or, if your safari schedule allows and there is available space in the balloons, we can attempt to fly you the following day.
How many people fit in the basket?
Hot Air Balloon Safaris balloons can hold a maximum of 16 people in a basket.
What will I see?
Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve is the ultimate ballooning destination. The landscape is stunning and free, and the abundant wildlife can make for spectacular viewing’s from above. As this is a wilderness area contiguous with the Serengeti National Park of Tanzania, with free-ranging wildlife that is not fenced in, we of course cannot guarantee what we will fly over and what we will see during a particular flight.
However, we typically see a good diversity of animals, and it is likely you will spot elephants, giraffes, various antelope species, and ostriches from the balloon. Many of our guests also see hyenas, lions, and cheetahs, and ballooning is one of the best ways to search for the elusive black rhino, of which there are less than 40 in the Mara.
Depending on the day’s flight path, you may also drift along one of the rivers and see hippos and crocodiles. We have had some truly amazing sightings over the years, including leopards in trees, lions on kills, and active hyena dens. If you visit the Mara between July and October, you will probably see the “Great Migration” of over a million wildebeest, along with large numbers of zebras and gazelles.
Observing this phenomenon from the balloon is the best way to grasp just how huge the migrating herds really are, and is an experience not to be missed. Regardless of whether the “Big Five” are seen from the balloon, most people say that the balloon flight was a highlight of their safari.
Where will I fly?
Hot Air Balloon Safaris flies from the area of Talek. Hot Air Balloon Safaris launch site is centrally located on the northern edge of the Masai Mara National Reserve. Hot Air Balloon Safaris usually flies west-southwest, which first takes us along the Talek River, then out across some wide-open plains towards the Ol Keju Rongai River.
Hot Air Balloon Safaris sometimes land in the vicinity of this river, but if the winds are strong enough, we continue on towards the Mara River and the Tanzanian border.