Wakeup at 4:00am …. Why?!? I’m going on a hot air balloon ride today over the Mara. Normally, this is something I would not do, as we’ve been seeing so much on the game drives. But so many people have told me how great the trip is so I decided to do it. Don and Hunter are the other two from the Wild Eye camp that are going and we are picked up at 4:30am and driven 45 minutes north, in pitch dark, to the balloon launch site .. we encountered a few hippos along the way crossing the road, and gave them a wide berth.
Once we arrived at the balloon launch site, it is still dark and we saw them inflating the balloons with fans powered by generators (no grid power anywhere in the region). Once air is in the balloon, the “flame-throwers” begin to heat up the air to get them upright. These things are HUGE (I’d guess 100 feet high) and have baskets that hold 12 people.
We all climb in and we take off (more like drift off). Our height varies during the ride from just above the treetops to over 1,000 feet. Great views of the Mara river, hippos, birds, hyenas, zebras and other animals. The pilot controls the MASSIVE burners to go up and down, and after about 50 minutes, we “land” in an open field. Land is a relative term; actually, we bounce a few times and then the basket falls to its side and the 12 of us and the pilot climb out. Interesting way to land but it is the only alternative with the wind blowing 10-15 MPH.
We are met by vehicles and taken to a champagne breakfast in the bush, with cook-to-order eggs, bacon, sausage, etc. Very nice.
Here are a few pictures and video I took. I’ll add that almost all of the video is from my Samsung phone. The video from the Canon 7D II camera and 100-400mm lens was too shaky … so much for needing thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment!