Hot Air Balloon Safaris in Kenya

April 26, 2023
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A hot air balloon safari in Kenya is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure that allows you to soar above the plains, forests, rivers, and hills of Kenya’s most famous national parks and reserves, such as the Masai Mara, Amboseli, and Lake Nakuru. You will have a bird’s eye view of the majestic animals that roam these lands, such as lions, elephants, giraffes, zebras, wildebeests, and more. You will also witness the stunning sunrise over the horizon, painting the sky with vibrant colors. A hot air balloon safari is a magical and exhilarating experience that you will cherish for years to come.

But before you book your flight, there are some things you need to know and prepare for. In this guide, we will cover some of the most important topics related to hot air balloon safaris in Kenya

Why Kenya is a Popular Destination for Hot Air Balloon Safaris?

Kenya is one of the best places in the world to enjoy a hot air balloon safari, for several reasons. First of all, Kenya has some of the most spectacular scenery and wildlife in Africa, with vast savannahs, rolling hills, forests, rivers, lakes, and mountains. A hot air balloon safari allows you to see these landscapes from above, with panoramic views that you can’t get from the ground.

Secondly, Kenya has a variety of locations where you can do a hot air balloon safari, each offering a different experience and scenery. You can choose from the famous Masai Mara National Reserve, the stunning Amboseli National Park, or other potential locations in Kenya.

Thirdly, Kenya has a long history and tradition of hot air ballooning, dating back to 1976 when the first commercial balloon safari was launched in the Masai Mara by Alan Root . Since then, Kenya has developed a reputation for excellence and professionalism in hot air ballooning, with experienced pilots, crew, and companies that ensure your safety and satisfaction.

Locations for Hot Air Balloon Safaris in Kenya

There are several locations in Kenya where you can enjoy a hot air balloon safari, depending on your preferences and budget. Here are some of the most popular ones:

  • Amboseli National Park: This park is famous for its stunning views of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. You can admire the snow-capped peak and the surrounding savannah from your balloon basket, as well as spot elephants, giraffes, lions and other wildlife. The best time to visit Amboseli for a balloon safari is between June and October, when the skies are clear and the animals are more visible.
  • Masai Mara National Reserve: This is the ultimate destination for a hot air balloon safari in Kenya, especially during the Great Migration season between July and October. You will fly over the vast grasslands, dotted with acacia trees and rivers, where thousands of animals congregate and move in huge herds. You will also see predators like lions, leopards, cheetahs and hyenas hunting their prey or resting under the shade. The Masai Mara is also home to many other species, such as elephants, buffaloes, rhinos, hippos, crocodiles, giraffes, antelopes and birds.
  • Other potential locations in Kenya for hot air balloon safaris include Lake Nakuru National Park, where you can see flamingos and other water birds; Samburu National Reserve, where you can see rare animals like Grevy’s zebras, gerenuks and reticulated giraffes; and Laikipia Plateau, where you can see endangered species like black rhinos, wild dogs and Grevy’s zebras.

What to Expect

A hot air balloon safari typically starts before dawn, when you will be picked up from your safari camp or lodge and driven to the launch site. There, you will meet your pilot and crew, who will brief you on the safety procedures and what to expect during the flight. You will also have a chance to watch the balloon being inflated, which is an exciting spectacle in itself.

Once the balloon is ready, you will climb into the basket and take off. The flight duration varies depending on the wind conditions and the location, but it usually lasts between one to two hours. During this time, you will glide over some of the most scenic and wildlife-rich areas of Kenya, enjoying a panoramic view of the natural wonders below. Your pilot will also point out interesting features and animals along the way, as well as answer any questions you may have.

The landing is another thrilling part of the adventure, as you never know where exactly you will touch down. The pilot will look for a suitable spot to land safely, avoiding trees, rocks, and animals. The crew will follow you in a chase vehicle and help you get out of the basket. You will then be treated to a champagne-style bush breakfast, where you can toast to your amazing flight and share your impressions with your fellow passengers.

After breakfast, you will be driven back to your lodge or camp by 4×4 vehicle. Alternatively, you can opt for a guided game drive or walk in the park or reserve where you landed, to see more wildlife up close.

Sunrise and Scenic Views

One of the main attractions of a hot air balloon safaris in Kenya is the opportunity to see the sunrise over the horizon, as you float gently in the sky. The sunrise in Kenya is spectacular, as the sky changes from dark to light, and the sun casts its golden rays on the land below. The sunrise also signals the start of a new day for the animals, who begin to stir from their resting places and roam around in search of food and water. You might be able to spot some of the Big Five animals, such as lions, elephants, and buffaloes, as well as other wildlife species, such as giraffes, zebras, wildebeests, antelopes, and gazelles.

As you fly higher in the air, you will also be able to enjoy the scenic views of the landscape, which vary depending on where you take off from.

Safety and Professionalism

Hot air balloon safaris in Kenya are safe and enjoyable and can be done by anyone who is reasonably fit and healthy. However, there are some safety measures that you need to follow before and during your flight. These include:

  • Listening carefully to your pilot’s briefing before take-off. Your pilot will explain how to board and exit the basket safely, how to position yourself during landing,nand what to do in case of an emergency.
  • Wearing comfortable clothing that covers your arms and legs,
    and sturdy shoes that protect your feet from thorns or rocks on
    the ground.
  • Avoiding wearing loose or dangling items that could get caught
    in the burner or ropes,nsuch as scarves, hats, or jewelry.
  • Following your pilot’s instructions at all times,
    especially when it comes to sitting down or standing up in the basket.
  • Not smoking or drinking alcohol before or during your flight,
    as these could impair your judgment or reaction time.

You can rest assured that your hot air balloon safari will be conducted by reputable and professional companies that have years of experience and expertise in the field. These companies have:

  • Licensed and qualified pilots who have undergone rigorous training and testing by the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) and have thousands of hours of flying experience in different weather conditions and locations.
  • High-quality and well-maintained balloons that are built by British manufacturers and undergo annual inspections by the KCAA to ensure their safety and performance.
  • Dedicated and friendly crew members who assist the pilot in inflating and deflating the balloon, driving the recovery vehicles, and setting up the champagne breakfast after the flight.

Booking a Hot Air Balloon Safari in Kenya

If you are interested in booking a hot air balloon safari in Kenya, you need to do some research and planning beforehand. Here are some of the steps you need to take:

  • Research and select a reputable hot air balloon safari operator. You can do this by reading online reviews, asking for recommendations from friends or travel agents, or checking the credentials and affiliations of the operator. Some of the factors you need to consider when choosing an operator are: their safety record, their customer service, their flight locations and routes, their balloon capacity and quality, their pilot qualifications and experience, and their social and environmental responsibility.
  • Understand the pricing, inclusions, and exclusions of the balloon safari package. The price of a hot air balloon safari in Kenya varies depending on the operator, the location, the season, and the demand. The average price ranges from $430 to $450 per person. The price usually includes: the transfer from your safari camp or lodge to the launch site and back, the flight duration of about one hour, the champagne breakfast after the flight, the park entrance fees, and the government taxes. The price usually excludes: the conservancy or national reserve landing fees, which are paid directly to the local communities or authorities, the tips to the pilot and crew, which are optional but appreciated, and any optional guided walking activities or cultural experiences that you might want to add to your itinerary.
  • Book your hot air balloon safari in advance. Due to the limited availability of balloons and seats, it is advisable to book your hot air balloon safari as early as possible, especially during peak seasons such as July to October or December to March. You can book your flight online through the operator’s website or email, or through your travel agent or safari camp or lodge. You will need to provide some personal details such as your name, contact information, weight, dietary preferences, and any special requests or medical conditions. You will also need to pay a deposit or full payment to secure your booking.

What to Wear and Bring

Since a hot air balloon safari involves an early morning start and a high-altitude flight, it is important to dress appropriately and bring some essential items with you. Here are some tips on what to wear and bring:

  • Wear layers of clothing that can be easily added or removed depending on the temperature. It can be chilly before sunrise and during the flight, but it can also get warm afterwards.
  • Wear comfortable shoes that are suitable for walking on uneven terrain. Avoid sandals or flip-flops.
  • Wear a hat or a cap to protect your head from the sun and the heat of the burner.
  • Apply sunscreen and lip balm to protect your skin from sunburn.
  • Bring sunglasses to shield your eyes from the glare of the sun.
  • Bring a camera or a smartphone to capture the stunning views and wildlife sightings. Make sure they are fully charged and have enough memory space.
  • Bring binoculars if you want to get a closer look at the animals below.
  • Bring some water and snacks if you get thirsty or hungry during the flight.

Age and Health Restrictions

A hot air balloon safari is generally suitable for most people who are in good health and have no serious medical conditions. However, there are some age and health restrictions that apply:

  • The minimum age for passengers is usually 7 years old, but some operators may have different policies. Children under 12 years old must be accompanied by an adult.
  • The maximum weight for passengers is usually 120 kg (264 lbs), but some operators may have different policies.
  • Pregnant women are not allowed to fly in a hot air balloon for safety reasons.
  • People with heart problems, back problems, mobility issues, or any other medical conditions that may affect their ability to fly or land safely should consult their doctor before booking a hot air balloon safari.
  • People who suffer from motion sickness or fear of heights should also consider their suitability for a hot air balloon safari.

Common Concerns

A hot air balloon safari is a safe and enjoyable activity that is regulated by the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) and conducted by licensed pilots and crews. However, some people may have some common concerns or fears about flying in a hot air balloon, such as:

  • Is it safe? Yes, it is safe. Hot air balloons are designed and built according to strict standards and undergo regular inspections and maintenance. The pilots and crews are trained and experienced in operating the balloons and handling any emergencies. The flights are also monitored by the KCAA and the operators, who communicate with the pilots and crews via radio.
  • Is it cold? It can be cold before sunrise and during the flight, especially at higher altitudes. However, the heat of the burner and the movement of the balloon can also generate some warmth. It is advisable to wear layers of clothing that can be easily added or removed depending on the temperature.
  • Is it noisy? It can be noisy when the burner is on, which creates a loud whooshing sound. However, the burner is not on all the time, and there are moments of silence when you can enjoy the peacefulness of the flight. You can also wear earplugs if you find the noise too disturbing.
  • Is it scary? It can be scary for some people who have a fear of heights or flying, or who are not used to being in a basket suspended in the air. However, most people find that their fear fades away once they are in the air and see the amazing views and wildlife below. The flight is also smooth and gentle, and the pilot and crew are there to reassure you and make you feel comfortable.

Photography and Capturing the Moment

Hot air balloon safaris in Kenya offer great opportunities to capture some stunning photos and videos of Kenya’s wildlife and landscapes from a unique perspective. However, there are some challenges and tips that you should keep in mind to get the best shots possible:

  • Use a camera or a smartphone that has a good zoom function, as you will be flying at a considerable distance from the ground and the animals. You can also use binoculars to get a closer look at them.
  • Use a camera or a smartphone that has a good stabilization function, as you will be moving with the wind and the balloon. You can also use a strap or a case to secure your device and prevent it from falling or getting damaged.
  • Use a camera or a smartphone that has a good battery life and memory space, as you will be taking many photos and videos during the flight. You can also bring extra batteries or memory cards if needed.
  • Use a camera or a smartphone that has different modes and settings for different lighting conditions, such as sunrise, sunset, cloudy, sunny, etc. You can also adjust the exposure, contrast, saturation, etc. to enhance your photos and videos.
  • Experiment with different angles, perspectives, compositions, and filters to create interesting and creative photos and videos. You can also try to capture some action shots of the animals running, jumping, fighting, etc.

Other Activities and Combination Packages

Hot air balloon safaris in Kenya are not only a standalone activity but also a part of a larger safari experience that can include other activities and combination packages. Depending on your preferences, budget, and time availability, you can choose from various options to enhance your adventure:

  • Game drives: A game drive is a classic safari activity that involves driving in a 4×4 vehicle across the park or reserve with a guide who will show you the wildlife and explain their behavior and ecology. You can combine a hot air balloon safari with a game drive before or after the flight to see more animals from different angles and distances.
  • Bush breakfasts: A bush breakfast is a delicious meal that is served in an outdoor setting surrounded by nature. You can enjoy a bush breakfast after your hot air balloon safari as part of your champagne-style celebration. You can also opt for a bush breakfast before your flight if you prefer to start your day with some food in your stomach.
  • Nature walks: A nature walk is an immersive safari activity that involves walking on foot with a guide who will teach you about the flora and fauna of the area. You can join a nature walk after your hot air balloon safari to explore more of the park or reserve at ground level and get closer to nature.
  • Cultural visits: A cultural visit is an educational safari activity that involves visiting a local community or village and learning about their culture, history, traditions, and way of life. You can visit a cultural site after your hot air balloon safari to interact with some of Kenya’s indigenous people, such as the Maasai or Samburu.

At Tusker Trails Holidays, we are reputable safari operator in Kenya, please feel free to reach out to our safari experts to book these activities separately or as part of a package deal to include a hot air balloon safari. We can also customize your itinerary according to your interests and needs.

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