A hot air balloon safari over the Maasai Mara is one of the most enchanting ways to explore this vast and diverse landscape. It includes a flight over the Maasai Mara in a hot air balloon, providing a unique and breathtaking view of the plains and wildlife below. It’s a completely different perspective than what you get on the ground during a traditional game drive.

The Experience

Your hot air balloon safari typically begins very early in the morning, well before sunrise. You’ll be picked up from your lodge or camp and taken to the launch site. Here, you can watch the balloons being inflated and prepared for flight, an exciting spectacle in itself.

The actual flight usually begins at dawn. As the sun rises, so does your balloon, lifting off into the cool early morning sky. The tranquility and silence as you drift above the plains, forests, and rivers of the Maasai Mara are incredibly peaceful. You’ll float above herds of animals, observing them from a unique, aerial perspective. Wildlife is often more active in the early morning, so you may see predators on the hunt or herds of herbivores beginning their day.

Balloons travel with the wind, so the exact path and distance covered depend on the wind speed and direction on the day of the flight. The typical flight time is about one hour, but the memory lasts a lifetime.

Champagne Breakfast

Following the flight, a tradition that dates back to the first balloon flights in France is the “champagne breakfast”. The balloon lands in the reserve, and passengers can enjoy a full breakfast complete with champagne, prepared right there in the bush. This makes for a truly memorable ending to the flight.

Safety and Guides

Safety is paramount in hot air balloon safaris. The pilots are highly trained, and the balloons and equipment are regularly inspected and maintained. Furthermore, the balloons are equipped with safety features such as strong baskets and safety belts.

Hot air balloon companies in the Maasai Mara also employ guides who will point out animals and features of the landscape. They are well-trained, not just in navigation, but also in understanding the behavior of animals and the ecosystem, enriching your experience with their knowledge.

Booking and Cost

Hot air balloon safaris are an add-on to your safari package and need to be booked in advance due to limited availability. The cost varies by operator and often includes pick-up and drop-off at your accommodation, the balloon ride, and the champagne breakfast.

Typically ranged from about $400 to $500 per person. Here are a few well-known hot air balloon safari operators in the Maasai Mara:

  • Governors’ Balloon Safaris: This company is associated with the Governors’ Camp Collection and operates flights year-round, weather permitting. Governors’ Balloon Safaris have been operating in the Maasai Mara for over 40 years, making them one of the most established operators in the region.
  • Hot Air Safaris: Hot Air Safaris prides itself on offering a luxurious and personalized hot air balloon experience in the Maasai Mara. The company operates a smaller balloon which provides a more intimate experience for passengers.
  • Mara Balloon Safaris: This operator provides an hour-long flight over the Mara with a champagne breakfast to follow. The company also offers a special flight package that includes a bush dinner.
  • Skyship Company: This is a unique operator that uses a modern version of the traditional airship, known as a skyship. They offer flights over the Maasai Mara, which gives an entirely different experience from the usual balloon safaris.

Remember to pack your camera or smartphone as the photo opportunities are truly exceptional. You might also want to bring along binoculars for a closer look at the wildlife.

A hot air balloon safari over the Maasai Mara is an unforgettable experience and often a highlight for many visitors to Kenya. The breathtaking views of the landscape, the sunrise, and the wildlife from above are simply unparalleled.