I’ve never been on a hot-air balloon ride, and when I did go on one for the first time, I ended up doing it clear on the other side of the world, in Africa. In Kenya to be specific, over the Masai Mara plains. Crazy, right? What a spectacular experience this was!
When we went on a safari this past summer to Masai Mara, Kenya to see the wildebeest migration from Kenya’s Mara plains to the Serengeti plains in Tanzania, Hitesh told us one of the best ways to see all the animals over the landscape is to go on a hot-air balloon ride. Hitesh wanted to do this balloon ride so badly. The rest of us were a little anxious but he somehow convinced us to go along with him.
And on day two of our four-day safari, we got ready for our hot-air balloon adventure!
All balloon rides start off early in the morning. When I say early morning, I mean we had to wake up at 4:30am to get ready for our 5am one-hour car ride to the balloon park. Our one-hour drive was in pitch darkness, on dirt roads over the vast open plains of Masai Mara, and was truly a unique experience. We shared our jeep with a young couple from the UK who were just as excited, as we were to be going on this amazing balloon safari!
After our one-hour drive, we reached the balloon park where all the hot-air balloons were getting prepped for their rides. Here we got to watch the ground crew pump gas into the hot-air balloons that will be taking off.
What we didn’t realize is how big hot-air balloons are when they are inflated. Each hot-air balloon is over 95 feet tall! People looked tiny in comparison.
Once the balloons were inflated, the huge basket that holds 16 people in total not including the pilot starts to straighten up, as the balloon gets vertical. These baskets are over 4 feet tall and 15 feet wide. They are huge baskets!
At this point it is a mad scramble for all 16 passengers to climb into the basket. This part was a lot of fun and a little crazy 😄. The ground crew was holding onto the balloon to prevent it from floating away while everyone started boarding. The basket is divided into 4 even partitions. Only four people are allowed in each partition to keep an even balance while on the balloon ride. We shared our basket with a family from Mexico City, Mexico. They were a great bunch to share the balloon ride with, full of laughter and warm friendly energy.
After everyone was on-board the basket, the pilot went through our landing position and safety rules. Once we had that right, the pilot gave the ground crew the thumbs up 👍, and the balloon is set free. Then we set sail into the air!
The ride was smooth, slow and breathtaking! I don’t know what I expected, I think I was expecting a gut-wrenching ride like a roller coaster ride, but the ride is actually the opposite. It is very slow moving and calm.
It was a leisurely balloon ride with the main objective of spotting animals down below.
This was one exhilarating balloon ride. A rare opportunity to see the beauty of what this vast land has to offer with its hundreds of thousands of wild animals roaming free on hundreds of miles of open land. It was just out of this world!
We even got to witness Africa’s famous sunrise, which was just awe inspiring.
Hitesh became friends with our hot-air balloon pilot, Barnabas. Barnabas was a fun pilot and had a great sense of humor. Hitesh having grown up in Kenya was able to speak with him in Swahili, which was pretty cool. We found out that Barnabas trained to be a hot-air balloon pilot in of all places – Napa Valley, right here in Northern California!
After an hour and a half balloon-ride over 2000ft up in the air, we landed on a strip of open land where the hot air balloons were deflated and were readied to be driven back to the balloon park.
We then took a quick 15-minute jeep ride to our breakfast spot. On the way we went hunting for ostrich eggs, which our Mexican friends had spotted, from the air while landing. And we found them! Huge eggs, all 11 of them were just laying on the ground in a little enclave in the dry grass. One of the guys joked that one egg could feed at least 10 of us😀. We spotted the parent ostrich a few yards away too.
When we arrived at our bush breakfast we were treated to an outstanding dining scene. Tables set with plates and silverware, and a scrumptious breakfast prepared by local chefs was like nothing I have ever experienced.
Miles and miles of open plains where you know wild animals are roaming free while you are partaking of a gourmet breakfast? The humor in this was not lost on any of us 😄. We observed other balloon pilots telling some of their guests not to wander off too far as it was dangerous, there were animals roaming free.
On the menu were made to order omelets, roasted potatoes and veggies, baked beans, bread rolls, local fritters, roasted chicken, sausages, pastries, orange juice, mimosas, sodas, champagne, and even cocktails were prepared on site. The omelet I had here was one of the best I have had anywhere, and the vegetables and pastries tasted divine. It’s because all eggs and produce are organic in this country. Kenya hasn’t caught up to the rest of the world with all the GMO farming yet – thank goodness! The eggs always taste better here – just pure nature and earth come through in every bite 😋😋.
After an amazing gourmet breakfast that tasted just as scrumptious as the out of this world setting, we were driven back to our campsite. Even the jeep ride back was an eventful ride with all of us keeping a look out for animals. We spotted a few giraffes on our ride back 😊.
We got to experience something truly breathtaking on this balloon safari with animals roaming free down below, while we were floating freely among the clouds.
This hot-air balloon safari was the most magical ride we have ever been on. A spectacular journey over the plains of Masai Mara, Kenya.