Guide on Planning a hot air balloon safari in Kenya

A hot air balloon safari is an experience of floating over the great plains of a game reserve or park in a hot air balloon. Want to make your Kenyan safari holiday even more unforgettable? Guide on planning a hot air balloon safari in Kenya will indeed help you with it. For our guests who have not been on a hot air ballooning excursion in Africa or elsewhere or those who wish to do it over and over again, we offer some general information about how a hot air balloon works and what to expect. Nothing is more spectacular than launching at sunrise and floating effortlessly in a hot air balloon over a Game Reserve most especially Masai Mara. There is nothing quite like it. The absolute peace of immense vistas, muted colors and crisp fresh air and the ever present promise of something wild as the balloons float you silently above it all like a dream come true. Masai Mara is the northernmost part of the spectacular Serengeti-Mara ecosystem, home to the Great Migration and scores of other wildlife, including lions, cheetahs, elephants, rhinos, hippos, and crocodiles. A magical hot-air balloon safari here is a must. Gently drift over the plains as the sun rises, with game roaming below.

What is a Hot Air Balloon

hot air balloon is a lighter-than-air aircraft consisting of a bag, called an envelope, which contains heated air. Suspended beneath is a gondola or wicker basket (in some long-distance or high-altitude balloons, a capsule), which carries passengers and a source of heat, in most cases an open flame caused by burning liquid propane. The heated air inside the envelope makes it buoyant since it has a lower density than the colder air outside the envelope. As with all aircraft, hot air balloons cannot fly beyond the atmosphere. The envelope does not have to be sealed at the bottom, since the air inside the envelope there is at about the same pressure as the surrounding air. In modern sport balloons the envelope is generally made from nylon fabric and the inlet of the balloon (closest to the burner flame) is made from a fire resistant material such as Nomex. Modern balloons have been made in all kinds of shapes, such as rocket ships and the shapes of various commercial products, though the traditional shape is used for most non-commercial, and many commercial, applications.

History of Hot Air Balloon

Pilatre De Rozier launched the first hot air balloon On the 19th September 1783, it was called ‘Aerostat Reveillon’. His passengers were a sheep, a duck and a rooster. The balloon stayed in the air for 15 minutes before crashing back to the ground.
The first manned attempt came about 2 months later on 21st November, with a balloon made by two French brothers, Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier. The balloon was launched from the centre of Paris and flew for a period of 20 minutes. Just two years later, a French balloonist, Jean Pierre Blanchard, and his American co pilot, John Jefferies, became the first to fly across the English Channel. In these early days of ballooning, the English Channel was considered the first step to long distance ballooning so this was a large benchmark in ballooning history.

Why is hot air balloon unique?

Hot air weighs less than the same volume of cold air (it is less dense), which means that hot air will rise up or float when there is cold air around it, just like a bubble of air in a pot of water. The hot air balloon is the oldest successful human-carrying flight technology.


The Hot Air Balloon Safaris Experience. (Guide on planning a hot air balloon safari in Kenya).

Flying in a balloon is considered a breathtaking experience by many, as it serves as a great opportunity to see wildlife and beautiful landscapes like mountains and rivers from an aerial view. Guide on planning a hot air balloon safari in Kenya will guide you through understanding and experiencing it. Since its birth in East Africa in the 1960s, millions have engaged in the adventure over the years. When you book a hot air balloon safari, this is what mostly happens. On the day of departure early in the morning, you receive a wake up call in your tented camps or lodges. And after a hearty breakfast, with expectations and curiosity, you are taken to the departure site of the hot air balloon. Usually, about 12 to 14 people enter the balloon’s basket but that depends on the size and rules of those offering the safari. They advise guests to wear warm clothing and bring along a camera for aerial view photo taking. 

Suspended in a basket beneath the balloon, you receive a clear aerial view of the wildlife, plantation, rivers beneath. The amazing thing about the balloon safaris is the absolute stillness and silence as it glides through the skies. Occasionally you can hear sounds below such as elephants bustling through bushes, baboons screeching from trees, a lion’s roar to mention a few lively activities. And once the balloon safari period is over, when the balloon lands, guests are treated to a celebrations depending on the organisation. They award Certificates to guests who have had an opportunity to fly in the balloon.

Balloon Safari Itinerary

If you have a Balloon safari ride, you will have to rise early, usually before dawn around to be taken from your camp to the balloon launching site. On getting there, you will enjoy breakfast while you watch as the balloon is inflated. When the balloon is ready you get into the basket and your pilot will give you a short briefing. Then, as the sun rises, so does your balloon. The direction you take will depend on the wind and you may float over forest, plains or rivers. The balloon’s lift comes from hot air which is slightly lighter than the surrounding cold atmosphere. The hotter the balloon the faster it rises. As the balloon cools it slowly descends. 

Your pilot will point out the game below and there are ample opportunities for photography. One of the best things about ballooning is that’s totally silent apart from the occasional noise from the balloon’s burners. After around an hour you will land on the plains, possibly with a bump and certainly ready for breakfast. 

The Top Five Masai Mara Balloon Safaris Operators. (Guide on planning a hot air balloon safari in Kenya).

Governors Camp

The adventure begins just before dawn. Departure is from a perfect natural launch site behind Little Governors’ Camp. Flames from the hot air balloon burners light the darkness as the crews inflate their craft. The first pink tongues of sunlight flicker across the skies as the hot air balloon fills, then rises. Suspended in a basket beneath the rainbow-colored canopy, you’re off for a wildlife viewing adventure with an entirely different perspective. The feeling is indeed amazing. What amazes most first-time balloonists is the absolute stillness: the silence as you float above the plains, the forest and the rivers of the Masai Mara.

Even if you’ve flown elsewhere, this is a unique experience. The flight lasts an hour or so, drifting wherever the air currents take you, and with ample opportunities for photography and video filming. Then your Governors Balloon Safari  finishes with a flourish. In the time honored tradition of balloon flights the world over, you toast your return to earth with a delicious breakfast. The Balloon Safari ends with a game drive on your way back to Little Governors Camp. They also offer Hot Air Balloon Safaris for those staying at other select Masai Mara camps.

Balloon Safaris LTD

The ORIGINAL Hot Air Ballooning Company. Flying over the world famous Masai Mara game reserve in Kenya since 1976. Their services include pick-up and drop-off services for visitors staying in various lodges such as Mara Sopa Lodge, Mara Simba, Mara Sarova, Mara Hippo, Sekenani Camp, and Siana Springs. Experience the best ballooning safaris within the country with them.

Adventures Aloft Balloon Safaris 

For over 25 years, Adventures Aloft has been providing its clients with memorable hot air balloon safaris over some of East Africa’s premier national parks and reserves. In addition, Hot air safari balloons offer an awe-inspiring view of wildlife, plains, rivers and sunrise over Masai Mara and Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tarangire and Serengeti. They fly every morning from Siana Springs and Fig Tree Camp in the Masai Mara National Reserve.

Africa Eco Adventures LTD. Hot air balloon Masai Mara.

Africa Eco Adventures Ltd offers balloon flights in Kenya’s famous Masai Mara National Reserve. They are an exciting company whose owners have over 50 years of collective experience flying balloons and hosting safari guests in the Mara, as well as other parts of East Africa. The Director of operations, retired Captain Andrew Peart, who has over 25 years flying experience manages the flight team. Their Chief pilot is Captain Riz Jiwa, born & raised in Kenya with immense wildlife guiding background both in Amboseli & Masai Mara game reserves. The pick up locations include Amani Mara, Aruba, Ashnil, Base Camp, Kichakani, Elewana camp, Mara Intrepids and many more. And they guarantee that you will get to your destination safely and in good time.

Skyship Company Hot Air Balloon safaris

Their unique balloon experience takes you over the diverse habitats of the Masai Mara Reserve; fly over the great Mara river, swamps, forests, wildlife & the African Savannah. The quiet, relaxing ride allows you to view an amazing assotment of wildlife from a unique bird’s-eye view. You will see the lion, rhino, and buffalo frequently along with other animals such as hippos and many more.

Finally a you get a bush champagne breakfast on landing, on the open plains of Masai Mara. Passengers are then transported back to their lodges & camps en route via a game drive.

Some Facts about a Hot Air Balloon

  • Who were the first passengers on a hot air balloon? On September 19, 1783 Pilatre De Rozier, a scientist, launched the first hot air balloon called ‘Aerostat Reveillon’. The passengers were a sheep, a duck and a rooster and the balloon stayed in the air for a grand total of 15 minutes before crashing back to the ground.
  • Hot air balloons are able to fly to extremely high altitudes. On November 26, 2005 Vijaypat Singhania set the world altitude record for highest hot air balloon flight, reaching 21,027 m (68,986 ft). He took off from downtown Mumbai, India, and landed 240 km (150 mi) south in Panchale.
  • How High do Balloons fly? The highest hot air balloon flight on record went to an altitude of 22,000 ft. However, the typical romantic or pleasure flight would fly from treetop level to a few thousand feet, depending on the wind speed and direction.
  • Is hot air balloon safe? In the aviation world, hot air balloons are an incredibly safe form of flight, and they have become increasingly safe over time. Accidents are uncommon, and fatalities are even rarer. Between 2000 and June of 2016, only 21 hot air ballooning fatalities were reported in the United States.
  • How long can a hot air balloon stay in the air? Hot air balloons stay in the air for as long as they can keep their air hot, so as long as they have fuel to burn. Usually, a ride in a hot air balloon can last around four hours.
  • Weight limit of a hot air balloon. On average, a hot air balloon that is 65,000 cubic square feet can lift 1,000 lbs. The bigger a hot air balloon is and the hotter the air inside the envelope is, the more weight it can lift.
  • Do Hot air balloons fly at night? It is possible for balloons to fly at any time during daylight hours on a calm winter’s day. Very rarely, sporting and recreational balloon flights are conducted at night, but these are invariably planned to land after sunrise. Activity is usually higher at weekends and on public holidays.
  • Do hot air balloons fly in the rain? Balloons do not fly in rain or storms. Unlike aircraft, a balloon cannotfly away from storms. The temperature of the balloon can reach 100°C, and rain falling on the balloon cools it and the hot air inside.
  • What to wear on a hot air balloon? Avoid Skirts and Dresses. While the sights to be had during a hot air balloon ride are majestic, getting into the basket and landings won’t always be, get some Sunglasses, Comfy and Practical Shoes, Layers, a Hat and a Durable Camera Strap. 
  • How much does a hot air balloon safari cost? The cost of a hot air balloon ride is usually determined by several variables. But generally speaking, each ride runs about $400 per person and above. Make sure you consult your local tour operator about the exact prices
  • How safe is a hot air Balloon? Hot air ballooning is the activity of flying hot air balloons. Hot air ballooning has been recognized by Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) as the safest air sport in aviation, and fatalities in hot air balloon accidents are rare, according to statistics from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).


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  5. avatar
    11:56 am - September 16, 2020 / Reply

    Such an informative blog, i have been wondering how the balloon works and the experience, i now am planning to go on a safari with you to experience this. Kudos Kichaka

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