A Kenya hot air balloon safari is one of the most sort after experience. Hot air balloon is a type of aircraft made up of a bag or envelope filled with heated air. The heated air in the envelope makes it buoyant and this enables it to float in the air. Below the envelope is a wicker basket which carries passengers and source of heat that heats the air in the envelope. Hot air weighs less than the same volume of cold air which makes the hot air float when there is cold air around. The colder the air outside the balloon envelope, the more weight it can carry. Most balloon safari 0ccur early in the morning when the air is cold.
Hot air balloon was the first way to fly that was developed in the older times. The inaugural flight was in 1783 manned by two gentlemen Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent d’Arlandes. Precursor of modern hot air balloons, with an onboard heat source were developed during the 1950s. The first successful flight was on October 1960. Presently, hot air balloons are mostly used for recreation.
Design of Hot Air Balloon
A hot air balloon is made up of fabric gas bag ( envelope) with an opening at the bottom called the Mouth. Attached to the envelope is a basket for carrying passengers. Fixed on top of the basket and at the center of the mouth is the propane burner which shots flames into the envelope heating the air inside.
This is made up of either nylon or polyester. During construction, the material is cut into panels and sewn together and added with structural tapes that carry the weight of the basket. The separate sections, which extend from the throat to the top of the envelope, are known as gores. There is a vent at the top of the envelope which allows the pilot to release hot air and slow an ascent, start a descent, or increase the rate of descent, usually for landing.
They are commonly made of woven wicker or rattan which have proven to be sufficiently light, strong, and durable for balloon flight. The baskets are usually rectangular or triangular in shape. Sizes vary from smaller ones which can carry 3 people to larger ones which can carry up to thirty people.
The burner unit uses liquid propane which mixes with air, ignites the mixture, and directs the flame and exhaust into the mouth of the envelope. The pilot operates the burner by opening a propane valve and is able to control the amount of the flames by opening or closing the valve.
The hot air balloon is normally fitted with a variety of instruments to guide the pilot. These can include an altimeter, a rate of climb indicator known as a variometer, a GPS, envelope (air) temperature, and ambient (air) temperature gauge.
A hot air balloon has does not have a mechanism for steering. It uses the direction in which the wind travels to steer itself. The pilot can be steer the balloon to a limited degree by changing the altitude of the flight. At different altitudes, the wind direction is different.
Safety of hot air balloon safari
Hot air balloons are an incredibly safe form of flight and they are becoming more safer with constant improvement. Accidents are rare, and fatalities are even rarer.
Hot air Balloon safari
This is one of the most sort after experience during a safari holiday. The early morning fresh air and a birds eye view of the expansive savannah plains teaming with wildlife is a sight to behold, as the hot air balloon floats in the sky. The flight starts early in the morning at around 6 AM when the air is cool and last about an hour. Depending on the distance to the launching site, you can be picked as early as 4.00AM. There are various balloon companies serving the expansive Masai Mara and it will depend with the one close to where you are staying. Mostly you receive a visit the previous night where you will be briefed about the impending balloon safari.
Regarding children, most hot air balloon do not accept children below the age of 3 years. The hot air balloon is able to take off in a favorable and conducive weather. Windy conditions make the hot air balloon flight possible but the wind speed should not be more than 13 kph. On some occasions, when the conditions are not conducive, the launch will be aborted till the next day as it can only be done in the morning. Therefore it will be a good idea to plan with a spare day at hand in case you cannot fly on the first try. In case of total failure, there is usually a refund. The cost of a hot air balloon usually averages around $45o for adults and children around $300 depending on the contract agreement between a tour operator and the hot air balloon company. It is advisable to plan your balloon safari through a tour operator.
The launch of the hot air balloon is equally spectacular. You enjoy a cup of coffee as you watch the pilots light the burners and inflate the craft with the flames lightening the darkness. The pilot will also give a safety briefing as well as explain what you can expect during the flight. Basic toilet facilities are available at the launch site. The crew will help you get into the basket and as the first rays of sunlight begin to flicker, you the balloon will fill with hot air and begin to rise gentle into the sky. Suspended below the balloon, you are off to your wildlife viewing safari with the pilots at hand to point at different kind of animals and sometimes coming close to the ground for closer look. Depending on where the wind current takes you, you will have a lot of opportunities for photography and video.
The flight will last for about an hour and the end will also be spectacular. As it is the tradition of balloon safaris all over the world, you will toast your return to earth with a delicious bush breakfast complete with a bottle of champagne. The finale is being provided by a balloon flight certificate signed by your pilot as a memoir. After breakfast, enjoy a leisurely game drive back to your camp or lodge and arrive around 10:30AM as you marvel at the memories of the morning’s flight.
The hot air balloon safari are mostly held in Masai Mara game reserve and can be incorporated in any type of safari program.
Below is a 3 days balloon safari itinerary
DAY ONE: NAIROBI TO MASAI MARA
You will be met by our company representative at the Jomo Kenyatta international airport or your city hotel. After a brief introduction and sharing of information, you will leave Nairobi and drive to the most scenic and amazing tourist destination in Kenya, the Masai Mara with an awe inspiring view of the Great Rift Valley on your way. The trip to Masai Mara takes 5-6 hours. You will arrive in time for lunch. After lunch and a brief rest, you will embark on your afternoon game drive feasting your eyes on the marvels that the Masai Mara has to offer. In the evening you will retire to your lodge, have dinner and fall asleep to the sounds of the African bush.
Accommodation at the Sekenani Camp
Meal plan (Lunch and Dinner)
DAY TWO: MASAI MARA
You will wake up early in the morning for a hot air balloon safari at 6AM. After the hot air balloon safari, you will have a bush breakfast before being driven back to the lodge or continue with game drives. Your game drives will take you in search of the Big Five as well as the plethora of outstanding wildlife found within the reserve. Wherever you go in the vast Masai Mara the abundance of wildlife is staggering. After viewing of wildlife, you have an option of visiting a cultural Masai village as drive back to the camp. Back to the camp in the evening.
Accommodation at the Sekenani camp
Meal plan (Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
DAY THREE: MASAI MARA-NAIROBI/DEPARTURE
You will have an early morning game at dawn. Return back to the lodge for breakfast. After breakfast check out and be driven back to Nairobi. The 3 days Kenya Balloon safari ends when you return to the bustling Nairobi.
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