The ride is normally done early in the morning at approximately 06:30 am in time to enjoy the sunrise glow in the distant horizon. The good thing about the Mara weather is that it is conducive for balloon rides to be operated daily throughout the year. Our company operations base and the launch site are close to Talek River bordering Maasai Mara Game Reserve. However, during windy times we use a launch site inside the park, approximately a seven-minute drive (4km) from Talek Gate, just off the main Talek-Keekorok road.
The flight usually lasts approximately one hour and covers anything between five and 20 km from launch to landing. The total distance covered always depends on the wind conditions on any given day. The entire excursion from pick up at the camp/lodge to drop off back at the camp or lodge varies from a 4:00 am departure to a 6:00 am departure, depending on the proximity/location of said camp/lodge. There are plenty of photographic opportunities on board and on the ground to and from the balloon excursion, including a game drive en route back to your camp/lodge by around 10:30 am.
As a rule of thumb, we generally don’t fly children under the height of the basket or younger than three years old. There’s no upper age limit, provided passengers are reasonably fit and ready to enjoy the adventurous soaring across the majestic plains. For clients’ own safety, ballooning is not suitable for pregnant ladies, persons with health conditions, heart matters, brittle bones, or neck and back conditions. Any balloon flight requires a certain amount of physical strength to climb in and out of the basket, in case the basket is standing upright or lying on its side. People with impaired mobility may be accommodated with prior notice to help us plan for them.
We encourage guests to carry binoculars, cameras, and, if they want to, a “selfie stick’ to capture those once-in -a-life-time moments!
We recommend you dress in layers, and a warm jacket or fleece is best for transitioning from the cool, dark early morning to the relatively late morning sun rays. It’s normally cool in the early mornings, and as you watch and wait for the balloons to be inflated, the chilly morning breeze can be uncomfortable. Once on board, the heat from burners above makes all around you warm. Trousers, long-sleeved shirts/tops and closed shoes come in handy in case we need to walk through some grass after landing.
Hot air rises…The balloon normally glides with the wind, but at different altitudes, the wind often flows in different directions. Therefore, by expertly navigating this vertical landscape, the pilot finds some directional control. To gain or lose altitude, the pilot manipulates the temperature of the air inside the balloon envelope using burners fueled by butane gas. When heat is added, the balloon gently rises. To descend, the pilot allows the balloon to cool naturally. The cooler the air inside the balloon becomes, the more quickly it descends. As the balloon descends and approaches landing, the pilot will add some bursts of heat from the burners to slow down the rate of descent and ensure landing is safely done with the expertise of a Mara Pilot.
Take-off is generally quite gentle, although it may be a bit fast in windy conditions. If the wind is above 15 knots at the take-off site, we will not fly due to safety concerns. While most of the landings are smooth, some are what we call a “tip over” landing, where the balloon basket drags along the ground for some metres before coming to a stop lying on its side. There may be a few bumpy landings, though. However, all are steered safely to a stop.
We rarely cancel flights (~5 times per year) and only do so due to high winds, rain, or extremely poor visibility. If your flight is cancelled, you will receive a 100% refund. Or, if your safari schedule allows and there’s available space in the balloons, we can attempt to fly you the following day.
Our balloons can hold a maximum of 16 people in a basket.
As you rise the Maasai Mara plains opens up before your eyes to feast on the golden sunrise, enchanting sceneries, plains-game below as the winds gently blows the basket deeper into the reserve.