I must admit that when our Go2Africa travel expert, Lorna, recommended that we splurge on a hot air balloon safari, I thought it sounded like a potential tourist trap. Never having been in a hot air balloon, I thought it might be a bit scary and a waste of money. But after seeing her pictures and discussing it more, we decided why not?! We were already spending a fortune (what’s another thousand dollars) and agreed that this was a once-in-a-lifetime trip so we don’t want to regret missing anything.
Wow! We were so happy that we chose to join this hot air balloon safari. Not only was it a unique way to view the landscape and scout the animals, but it was fun! We thoroughly enjoyed the group interaction of spotting animals, watching the sunrise on the horizon, learning from our guide and trying a new-to-us adventure. Below are some pros & cons for anyone considering a hot air balloon safari as well as some aerial pics I snapped mid air to help convince you to go!
+ You cover a much larger amount of land than you would on a normal game drive…I can’t remember how far he said that we went but to give you an idea, we started about 1 hour away from our camp and rode in the balloon for about 75 minutes in the other direction. It moves pretty swiftly and we covered a good amount. It is always nice to see new areas – which means new animals!
+ You can spot new animals…For example, we saw an ostrich leaving it’s nest that had five huge eggs in it. We saw massive crocodiles laying on rocks in the Mara River. We saw pods of hippos floating together by the shore. We never would have seen any of this from a land view.
+ The aerial view is a totally different perspective…It was so magical to see the animals moving in herds from above. We saw the formations they kept and how they moved as a group which was amazing. There was so much excitement and people would yell “ooh look there” or “wow anyone see that?” – we were constantly looking left and right to keep in on all of the action.
+ It is actually quite peaceful…For some reason I was nervous, thinking that the basket would feel unsafe or not sturdy but that just wasn’t the case. The captain made us feel safe and secure (they go through a safety precaution lesson prior to departure) and the ride was actually much more peaceful than I imagined. We grazed just above the tree lines so we never felt too high. The ride itself was smooth, calming and enjoyable. The landing is a bit bumpy but they prepared us for that. So if safety was a concern of yours, don’t worry! I promise that I never once felt scared or uneasy.
+ 3am pickup… I know this seems early but you are up by 5 most days for the safari anyway so it’s really not that much of an adjustment. Plus, you can nap when you’re back at the lodge!
+ It’s expensive…In full disclosure, our hot air balloon ride was around $500 per person. This included the transportation, hot air balloon ride, breakfast in the bush after and transport home. Costly? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely.
+ You’re not alone…One of the benefits to booking a small, intimate safari lodge is that you have minimal to no other people on your drives. In fact, I would say that 6 of our 8 drives were just us. We were so spoiled with having our guide, Godson, to ourselves! In the balloon, there were about 12-16 of us so it did feel a bit crowded. I’m sure there are more private (more expensive) options but just something to note. I envisioned taking a spectacular picture of the two of us in the basket but with heads all around, that just wasn’t the case.
I couldn’t believe how huge the balloon was!
in tight quarters with our new friends
an aerial view of the Mara River
The most beautiful sunrise view from the balloon
What an experience! I cannot wait to go back to Africa.