Flying high in a hot air balloon was something I have always wanted to experience. But never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that my very first time would be in the Maasai Mara during one of the world’s most magical wildlife events.
That’s right! My very first time in this strange mode of transportation was a hot air balloon safari in the Maasai Mara, Kenya. And better yet, it was in the midst of the great wildebeest migration!
There are a lot of incredible destinations for a hot air balloon ride, but to me… This one definitely topped the cake!
It was an early wake-up call, and a long bumpy drive from our camp, but what we were treated to was the experience of an absolute lifetime…
Our morning began at 4 AM; the sun was yet to rise as we drove for over an hour through the bumpy roads of the Maasai Mara Game Reserve, to an open field with not a single building in sight.
Situated in the midst of incredible wildlife were 3 huge, deflated hot air balloons from the company ‘Hot Air Safaris‘. In the total darkness of the early morning, the balloons lay flat on the grass waiting for its passengers to arrive.
After a quick briefing by our hilarious Canadian pilot, the 16 passengers in every balloon piled into the baskets (whilst it was laying on its side might I add). We lay on our backs looking up at the sky as the pilot filled the balloon with hot air from the flame.
Slowly, the basket tilted upright and our journey officially began – As the sun began to rise, so too did our balloon.
In the calm, peaceful tranquillity of the Maasai Mara, we glided above the distant plains above an unfathomable amount of wildlife. It’s one thing to see these fascinating creatures from the ground, but drifting peacefully above them was a whole nother level of beauty.
Below us, Safari vehicles tracked our journey along the ground; chasing us as fast as possible to reach us at our descent. We travelled for miles across the distant land with only the help of the calm, subtle wind.
Silence surrounded us; with only the occasional sound of gushing hot air filling the balloon, and the noises of wildlife calling beneath our feet.
Of course, the aim of this whole experience was to see wildlife from a birdseye view – And a birdseye view it was!
Beneath the basket of this giant balloon strolled thousands and thousands of wildebeest; so many that spotting another species in their presence was a challenge on its own.
The migration allowed us to see these beautiful beasts in unfathomable numbers, strolling across the plains as far as the eye could see.
Scattered throughout the areas where the wildebeest didn’t lie, zebra, hyena, elephant and lion were easily spotted from high above.
This magical experience allowed us to truly see the vast numbers that travel to Kenya during the migration, that simply wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.
We glided through the sky like a hunting vulture, spotting the devastating numbers that were lost in the food chain, and the extravagant numbers that had made it through the fight.
As we slowly passed above the animals that we share upon this earth, looking out across the savanna made us feel incredibly small; even the largest land mammal on earth looked like nothing more than a tiny ant.
After an hour of total magic, we drifted towards the border of Tanzania before landing smoothly in the long green grass of the Mara.
We exited the balloon and boarded the safari vehicles back to a special location – Because what better way to end an unbeatable morning? With a champagne breakfast of course!
Taking part in a balloon safari in the Maasai Mara was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I will surely never forget. Flying high across Kenya’s most well-known game reserve has set the standards very high for my next time in a hot air balloon.
But to be completely honest… I don’t think it will ever be beaten!
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Have you been on a balloon safari? I’d love to know in the comments below!
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