Hot Air Balloon Safaris in Masai Mara 2022-2023

Hot Air Balloon Safari In Masai Mara

A truly ‘once in a lifetime’ experience, flying in a Hot Air Balloon over the Masai Mara plains is an evocative experience that you have the chance to enjoy during any safari you take to Maasai Mara. The balloon take offs at the break of dawn, around 6am, gliding silently during the ride over the savannah grasslands below where you may spot a variety of wildlife. The flight lasts an hour and concludes with a ”Champagne Bush Breakfast” at the balloon landing site in the wilderness. The balloon is flown by a fully qualified and experienced Pilot and the balloons themselves are most often made by Cameron, a specialist hot air balloon manufacturer in Great Britain. The basket sizes vary and it is best to book the ride in advance as space is typically limited to a maximum of 16 passengers per balloon, often less if flying with a smaller basket.

An early start is necessary with passengers expected to be ready and waiting by 5 to 5.30am at their respective Lodge or Camp reception desks, this again dependent on how far you are from the take-off site. You will be collected for a transfer by road to this take off site, with the flight typically being air borne by 6.00 to 6.15am. During the flight you will fly over various parts of the Mara reserve below. Upon landing about an hour later, a delicious sit-down breakfast awaits, complete with waiting staff and a full hot breakfast ‘in the bush’ accompanied by chilled sparkling wine or champagne. Drop off back to your hotel follows right after breakfast, with a brief game drive enroute.

Expert Guide On Balloon Trips In Masai Mara
Hot air balloon rides are exhilarating in any setting. A hot air balloon safari over Masai Mara National Reserve, though, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We highly recommend that adventurous guests plan to stay at the reserve for at least three days to allow time for this activity along with your other safari activities such game drives, bush walks, village visits and more.

Additionally, hot air balloon flights need to be pre-arranged by your AfricanMecca trip representative to ensure guaranteed availability due to the limited space of only 16 passengers in a balloon. The balloons can accommodate adults and children, with some limitations.

Children must be at least four years old and must be accommodation by a parent or guardian. We recommend that adults be in good physical condition. Adults who are over 265 lbs (120 kg) may be required to purchase an additional spot on the balloon (twice the cost) for safety precautions, though this can be waived depending on flight occupancy at the discretion and prior approval from the pilot.

For our guests who have not been on a hot air ballooning excursion in Africa or elsewhere, we offer some general information about how a hot air balloon works and what to expect. Typically, staff of 20-25 people are required for the launch and recovery. When you arrive at the launch site, you may have a chance to see the balloon, also known as an “envelope,” being inflated.

The ground crew opens the envelope by laying it across the ground. A large fan is used to inflate the envelope partially. When the envelope is about half-full, the crew attaches the basket and burner. The basket remains fully secured to the ground during inflation. The burner is used to inflate the envelope fully.

Watching the inflation and preparation is an incredible experience, as you soon see the truly massive size of the balloon. Once the balloon is fully inflated, the crew helps passengers aboard. The basket of your balloon is sectioned into multiple compartments for both your comfort and safety. The ground crew steadies the balloon as your pilot gives you and other guests a safety overview. When everyone is set, the burner is turned on once again, and you feel the balloon aloft the ground.

The crew guides the basket until the balloon is safely launched. No two hot air balloon safaris are the same. The balloons rely on air currents, such as wind direction and speed. The pilot only controls the up and down movement. This is why hot air balloons require a chase team, and why you will have a unique and exclusive tour of Masai Mara National Reserve during each hot air balloon safari!

Best of all, hot air balloons fly over areas of the reserve that are restricted to safari vehicles! During your flight, even the altitude of your balloon flight is different – sometimes, you rise high above the plains so you can see for miles while at other times, you remain closer to earth, giving you close-up views of the animals.

Africa Magical Tours can arrange hot air ballooning in Masai Mara for all guests staying either in the reserve or in private conservancies; though, pickup times do vary depending on the distance from the launch site. Private hot air balloon safaris can also be arranged for multi-generation families and small groups during their bush holiday, and a discounted rate may be available depending on your month of travel.

Balloon Safari Ride Experience In Masai Mara

The day of your hot air balloon safari with Africa Magical Tours begins before dawn. You awaken to the quiet sounds of the East African bush – soft calls of indigenous birds, rustling vegetation signaling the presence of a large mammal, low snorts and grunts of hippos returning to the river and may be a distant roar of a lion. 

Your curiosity is piqued as to the wonder and amazement you are sure to feel as you drift above the savannah plains in a hot air balloon. A soft voice outside your tent pulls you back to reality, and you hurriedly dress in your favorite Kenya safari attire. You are sure that the air will be cool, so you don long trousers and a comfortable shirt before putting on your hiking shoes.

As you head out, you grab the last of your belongings – a hat, long-sleeved jacket or warm fleece, camera and binoculars. A member of the ground crew awaits you by the 4×4 vehicle. You climb aboard and head out across the open plains. The pre-dawn hour gives you an interesting insight into animal behavior. Hyenas gather around the remains of a lion kill, a young elephant playfully chases various birds and a gazelle springs amongst the grasses.

Ahead you see some of the launch staff where the massive balloon is partially inflated and billows in the gentle morning breeze. You watch intently as the crew attaches the basket and burner. Suddenly, an orange flame illuminates the setting, creating an almost artistic contrast with the soft pastel colors of the dawn sky.

Hot air ballooning & the Great Migration

If you decide to visit the Masai Mara between the months of July and October, you will have a chance cathing the ‘Great migration’ while flying above the African plains. There’s nothing quite like this phenomenon of migrating herds of wildebeest, zebras and gazelles. Flying above the herds in a hot air balloon is one of the best ways to grasp the enormity of what’s taking place. Other exciting sights to behold include watching predators such as lions hunting their prey, spotting leopards perched up high in trees and seeing active hyena dens. Every hot air balloon flight brings with it the opportunity to see new and exciting sights below. Your pilot will make sure to fly lower at times to allow for the best possible pictures to be taken.

Masai Mara hot-air balloon flight price

Hot-air balloon flights are quite pricey, especially in remote areas such as the Masai Mara. Hot air balloon ride prices start at US$ 450 per person. One of the reasons for this is the fact that balloons can only be used for a limited number of hours before they need replacing. After approximately 850 flight hours, balloons are retired and a new balloon must be purchased in order to guarantee the safety of those who board a balloon. What also makes hot air balloon flights expensive is the cost of fuel and crew to operate the hot air balloon. Crews are made up of six crew members and a licenced balloon pilot. An additional ten people behind the scenes (per balloon) are responsible for getting each hot air balloon airborne. In total, this adds up to quite a group of people whose livelihoods depend on the proceeds from hot air balloon flights. In addition to this, each hot air balloon flight requires recovery vehicles, transfer vehicles and back-up operations. To top this off, a large portion of the hot air balloon flight fees are made up of conservation fees.

Included in the price for a balloon safari are:

  • Approximately one hour hot air balloon flight
  • Transfer from your safari camp or lodge
  • Champagne style bush breakfast
  • Transfer back to camp after breakfast
  • Conservancy or national reserve landing fees

Planning a Masai Mara balloon safari

We can arrange departures for a Masai Mara balloon safari from most lodges and camps in the Greater Mara area. We strongly recommend booking a balloon safari in advance, as it concerns a very popular activity and gets booked out early (especially during peak season). Please remember to bring some warm clothing, and a bag in which you can secure camera, binoculars, and other personal items.

What happens if the weather is poor?

So, what happens if the hot-air balloon flight is cancelled due to poor weather? Naturally, safety is top priority to the hot air ballooning crew, so if weather conditions aren’t favorable your flight may be cancelled. If this occurs, you will be scheduled for a later flight if possible. If this isn’t an option your money will be refunded.