During my recent visit to Masai Mara North Conservancy, one of the activities that truly stood out was the hot air balloon safari organized by Governors Camp. This unforgettable adventure provided breathtaking views of the vast Mara plains and the abundant wildlife that roamed beneath us. It was an extraordinary and unique way to truly appreciate the immense beauty, grandeur, and magnificence of this remarkable park. We flew along Mara River and had our picnic breakfast somewhere in the wilderness where we landed after our 1-hour ride.
What we experienced during our Masai Mara Balloon Ride;
We did the hot air balloon safari to specifically get an idea of what guests should expect as we prepared to launch Kambu Campers. We considered the hot air balloon safari to be top on the list of activities to recommend. Having received a balloon ride certificate to prove after our successful flight, we are confident to recommend it to even more guests. the concept, we were now surer than ever that this was a great idea.
If you are planning on booking a hot air balloon safari, here’s what you should know:
- Hot air balloon rides usually begin very early in the morning when the wind is calmest and visibility is best. Depending on the weather conditions, your tour will last around an hour and you will be taken up to a height of approximately 1,000 feet for the best views.
- When booking your safari, The Balloon Safari Company will provide you with all the necessary gear (helmet, jumpsuit, safety briefing) as well as complimentary tea or coffee before taking off. During the flight, they also serve breakfast once you land.
- It is recommended that you wear comfortable clothing and shoes to the ride (e.g., trousers, a t-shirt, and closed-toed shoes).
- Hot air balloon rides are considered safe with experienced pilots who follow all safety regulations for successful flights.
Get excited for ‘Champagne Bush Breakfast’
Champagne bush breakfast is synonymous with most hot air balloon rides and dates back to the early days of hot air ballooning. Here is some history.
According to various sources, as our pilot explained during our ride, the tradition of a champagne breakfast originated with French pilots in the past. In those days, pilots would carry a bottle of champagne during their flights, not for their own enjoyment, but as a kind gesture towards the farmers whose fields their balloon would land on. This unique custom marked the beginning of a cherished tradition, where pilots would raise their glasses to toast one another in celebration.
Not only is it a great way to celebrate the successful end of your once-in-a-lifetime experience, but also it gives you an opportunity to bask in the beauty and serenity of nature. This bush breakfast can be organized at various points such as riverside clearings, wooded glades, or grassy plains, depending on the landing site. It is an amazing way to enjoy delightful champagne cocktails and a delicious bush breakfast in the middle of the wilderness. after your hot air balloon safari.
A typical balloon safari starts with you being woken up at around 5:30 am for your ride to the balloon’s departure point. For Governors’ balloons, we had to ride from the Governors’ main camp to Little Governors Camp. We were treated to a warm cup of tea or coffee before we got safety instructions from our pilot.
Prior to boarding, you will be provided with instructions on how to buckle up and, of course, some paperwork to complete. It is mandatory to give your consent to the required documentation before you can embark on the hot air balloon adventure. This document essentially states that you are permitted to board; however, you do so entirely at your own risk, acknowledging the potential hazards associated with hot air ballooning.
As the brief safety session went on, a group of balloon experts were inflating the balloon in view. It usually takes around thirty minutes to fill the balloon with enough hot air and get it up into the sky. When we were ready, we took turns climbing up the balloon’s basket and, finally, we were in the air! The basket can hold 3 people on each side, so there is plenty of room to move around and enjoy the panoramic views.
About the Mara Balloon Ride;
We took off a little after 6 am and, in no time, the sun was up. We were always accompanied by a good view of the sky—we could look down at wildlife grazing below us and feel the warmth of the rising sun. The hot air balloon slowly climbed up to an altitude of 1,000 feet before it descended again. It was such an immense pleasure to fly over expansive plains, woodlands, and winding Mara River surrounded by vast wildlife.
We made our way back down with the occasional burst of heat from the balloon’s burner in order to keep us afloat before making a soft landing at some point in the bush.
We had a very experienced guide throughout the journey, who kept us informed and pointed out sights of interest. He even shared some interesting facts about hot air ballooning with us during our flight. It was also incredible to watch as he effortlessly maneuvered the balloon’s direction using only his hands!
The journey concluded with a delightful bush breakfast complemented by a couple of glasses of champagne. The waitstaff were quite insistent that everyone in our group partake in the champagne, even though some members of my group do not drink. Despite this, they still accepted a full glass of champagne but chose not to drink it. Upon landing, they present you with a bottle of champagne and glasses, so you can join in the celebratory toast.
We were all very satisfied with our hot air balloon safari experience and it was definitely an incredible way to start the day. There’s nothing more thrilling than sailing through the skies! We highly recommend this activity for anyone looking for a chance to observe wildlife and enjoy spectacular views of nature from above.
Is it worth $450 per person?
In my opinion, hot air balloon safaris in the Mara tend to be considerably more expensive compared to those offered in other destinations. For instance, in South Africa, you can expect to pay almost half the price for a similar experience. The reason behind this price disparity becomes apparent upon closer examination. Firstly, Kenya lacks a pilot training school, which means most balloon pilots have to obtain their certification in the US or Europe. Consequently, the number of licensed pilots available to operate the balloons is limited. Secondly, there are only a handful of operators who have managed to obtain the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority license to conduct balloon flights in the Masai Mara.
Nevertheless, I firmly believe that the investment of $450 per person for a hot air balloon safari is well worthwhile due to its unparalleled experience. The breathtaking sights, enchanting sounds, and exhilarating sensation of being airborne combine to create an unforgettable adventure. Moreover, let us not overlook the delightful indulgence of a champagne bush breakfast awaiting you at the conclusion of your remarkable journey.
So, What are the Benefits of the Balloon ride;
Sights from above;
The hot air balloon gives you the opportunity to experience a bird’s eye view of the land below, and in the Masai Mara, there is no place more picturesque than the Mara Ecosystem – Both Masai Mara National Reserve and Serengeti National Park. It is an amazing sight to see herds of wildebeest grazing on grasslands and prides of lions lounging about in the shade. During our flight, we were lucky enough to spot elephants, zebras, giraffes, and other diverse wildlife. The Masai Mara is also renowned for its breathtaking sunrises and spectacular sunsets that you can witness in all their beauty from the sky.
The hot air balloon safaris are full of exciting adventures and thrills that are sure to leave you with an unforgettable experience. From soaring up into the sky, feeling the warmth of the sunrise on your face and witnessing all the amazing scenes below you to enjoying a bush breakfast in the middle of nowhere, these safaris will surely make for an extraordinary day.
The hot air balloon ride is one you’ll never forget! You’ll have memories of a lifetime, from the first moment you board until disembarking. The feeling of floating through the sky in a hot air balloon and witnessing some of nature’s most breathtaking views is simply priceless. From stunning landscapes to diverse wildlife sightings, take plenty of photos during your flight and capture all those precious moments that will last forever.
You get a certificate!
At the end of your hot air balloon safari experience, you will receive a signed certificate from the pilot. This is a great memento to keep as proof that you have indeed been on an amazing journey and experienced something truly remarkable.
Best times to go;
While several sources online mention the peak season from July to October being the best times to visit the Masai Mara, the truth is that hot-air balloon safaris can be enjoyed throughout the year. However, if you are looking for the most ideal conditions in terms of temperature and visibility, it’s recommended to book a trip between December and April. During these months, the temperatures are quite mild and the sky is usually very clear, giving you the best opportunity to capture stunning photos and videos of your journey.
For hot air balloon safaris, safety is a top priority. Each operator must adhere to strict safety guidelines set by the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority in order for their license to remain valid. Furthermore, all pilots have to obtain certificates from authorized entities before they can operate the balloons. Apart from that, they carry first aid kits and have undergone extensive training to ensure all passengers are safe throughout the journey.
It is also important to keep in mind that hot air balloon safaris can be affected by weather conditions at any given time, so always check with your operator for an update before booking a flight. This way you can be sure that all safety precautions have been taken and that you are in capable hands.
How to book your hot air balloon safari;
When you book your safari package to Masai Mara with us- Kambu Campers- and have shown interest in going for the balloon ride, we book the ride for you and arrange for pick-up from your hotel to the balloon departure point. We will also meet you after your safari to continue with your game drive in the Mara. You leave us the trouble of making all the necessary arrangements and you get to enjoy your hot air balloon safari with ease.
If you prefer to make independent bookings, there are many private operators who offer these services throughout the Masai Mara region. Be sure to research each provider thoroughly before booking your ride as not all of them may meet the safety standards required by the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority.
10 Reasons we thought the $450 balloon safari Price tag was Worth it:
- The unforgettable adventure: Hot air balloon safaris offer the perfect mix of breathtaking sights, enchanting sounds, and the thrill of being up in the sky. We took off at Little Governors Camp launch ground and flew along the meandering Mara River passing through the marsh grounds in search of wildlife.
- Variety of wildlife sightings: While on the safari, we were lucky enough to spot elephants, zebras, giraffes, and other diverse wildlife grazing on grasslands or lounging about in the shade. It’s different viewing wildlife from above and we were lucky that our pilot flew so low for us to get a closer look. Some of the wildlife pics we took won’t have been possible from the ground.
- Experience nature at its best: Witnessing the sunrises from the sky in all their beauty is something that words cannot describe. We felt so blessed to be able to witness how nature paints the sky with its colors, which we never would have been able to experience on ground level. The hot air balloon typically takes off before sunrise, allowing you to witness the majestic sight of the sun around 6:30 to 6:45 am, which is the usual sunrise time for Masai Mara.
- The bush & champagne breakfast: Breakfasting in the middle of nowhere was so much fun! After our hour-long flight, we were treated to a delicious breakfast complete with champagne and freshly made omelets. The feeling of being in such an untouched spot surrounded by nature and animals is one that can’t be replicated.
- Birdeye View of the Landscape: From the sky, we could see vast plains, distant mountains, and rivers winding their way through. This gave us a great opportunity to get an aerial view of what the landscape looks like without having to hike up mountains.
- Professional Pilots: All of our pilots were experienced professionals with years of experience in handling hot air balloon safaris. Our pilot was extremely knowledgeable and was able to give us interesting facts about the area, its geography and even some of the local people and culture.
- Great for Photographs: Taking photographs from a hot air balloon ride is totally different from taking them on ground level. You get to capture stunning shots with no obstructions like trees or rocks blocking your view.
- Memorable experience: What adds more to the adventure is getting into the basket and learning to strap ourselves in and hearing the roar of the fire and feeling that exciting lift as soon as it gets off the ground. This definitely makes for a lifetime experience that you will never forget! Getting off was another adventure in itself, and we were so excited when we reached the ground.
- Keepsake certificate: After your safari, you receive a flight certificate which can be kept as a memento of the amazing journey you took. This is a great memento to keep as proof that you have indeed been on an amazing journey and experienced something truly remarkable. The certificate proudly displays your name and bears the signature of the pilot. At Kambu Campers, it is of utmost importance to us that we only offer experiences that we have personally immersed ourselves in. It was very important for us to be on the balloon flight ourselves
- It is totally safe: We understand that safety is a top priority and we ensure that all our pilots have the relevant licenses as well as first aid kits on board. Furthermore, they are fully trained to handle any emergencies and know exactly when to take certain precautions. The most recent accident that happened during a hot air balloon safari was back in July 2000 as reported by ABC News here. That was 23 years ago! Accidents are very rare.
What critics say about hot air balloon safari not being worth it – 5 reasons;
- Expensive: Hot air balloon safaris do come with a hefty price tag and some may argue that it is not worth the cost. Most balloon experiences go for $450 to $550 per person depending on the month of the year while in other destinations such as South Africa, it only costs around $120 to $200 per person. As mentioned previously, several factors influence the pricing of a balloon ride, including the absence of a local flight school in Kenya and the high cost of regulatory requirements. These elements play a significant role in determining the overall cost of the experience.
- Not for everyone: Hot air balloon safaris are not ideal for people with vertigo or motion sickness as the rate of ascent and descent can be quite rapid at times. The wind direction is also unpredictable and can shoot up the balloon unexpectedly at times.
- Limited flight duration: The duration of the flight is usually no longer than one hour. Some argue that this is short for that amount of money.
- Limited visibility: Depending on how low the balloon is flying, it can be a bit difficult to spot wildlife from the sky. You may need binoculars to observe them properly. Some balloon safari providers do not provide binoculars.
- Limited wildlife sightings: While they do offer a great bird’s eye view of the landscape, there are certain restrictions on getting close to the animals due to laws that protect them from being disturbed.
Reviews of Masai Mara Hot Air Baloon Safari Rides:
On Tripadvisor, you’ll find a whopping 200 reviews from riders who have experienced these rides and have given them an impressive rating of 4.5 out of 5. Here is a link to the reviews.
As I read the reviews, it appears that various balloon experience provides offer rides with varying flight periods – far more than the 1-hour ride offered by Governors.
Below is what one rider had to say in his July 2023 review;
“Our host drove out the night before to meet us and give us an orientation and answer any questions (two hour round trip drive). Then picked us up the next morning bright and early. We had perfect weather for our flight and the pilot was very friendly. He did a good job of rotating the balloon when there were animals so everyone could see them. “
In another review, it was mentioned how the pilot’s decision to maintain a low altitude was appreciated by the reviewer. The reviewer recommended it for couples.
“The flight was the most unforgettable experience. The pilot was amazing at keeping the balloon close to the ground so we could enjoy the wild animals.”
One reviewer complained that he didn’t get his certificate and that the tour operator organizing it was not responsive and totally lacked organization;
“The balloon ride itself was fantastic but the customer service after the ride is non-existent. My sister and I did a safari with them and we had to leave early and didn’t get our certificates.” Read this entire 1-star review here.
It is important to work with a reputable tour operator that is responsive to your requests and communicates promptly. Read reviews on Safaribookings and if you see any sign of poor customer service, avoid that operator.
How to book a Hot Air Balloon Safari with Kambu Campers:
We have handpicked select hot air balloon safari flight operators with remarkable reviews and with experienced pilots who have extensive knowledge of the area and will make sure that you have a safe and enjoyable flight.
We take the stress of choosing the right operator by providing you with the best-rated operators. All you have to do is book a flight through our website and we will ensure that all the necessary arrangements are made for your safari.
The easiest way to book this tour with us is to choose any of our Masai Mara safari packages. In addition to the packages, indicate that you’d like to go on a hot air balloon safari and we’ll do the rest.
Simply fill out the form on the sidebar and we’ll be in touch within 24 hours.