Going on an African safari is a trip that tops most people’s vacation wish lists. It most certainly was on mine. I recently had the opportunity to make that wish a reality and spent several days in one of the most popular safari destinations in the world, Kenya. While sitting in an SUV a few feet away from lions, elephants, giraffes and more than 80 other species of animals who make their home in the world famous Masai Mara is truly thrilling, there are other equally exciting ways to see this spectacular region.
Safari From the Sky
Normally I like to sleep-in during vacations but the 5 a.m. wake up call necessary to take this stunning sunrise balloon ride and enjoy a champagne breakfast on the plains was totally worth it. Eight of us took flight with Captain Elly Kirkland, one of four pilots with Balloon Safaris, Ltd. Her husband, Captain Milton Kirkland, flew another group of people during the same time which made for some extraordinary aerial pictures of the breathtaking scenery including the second balloon.
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Open heights normally make me slightly uncomfortable so I was a little nervous about taking the ride, but I felt totally safe and at ease once meeting Captain Elly. We had a mandatory safety chat, an easy take off and sailed smoothly across the beautiful Mara for approximately an hour before making a gentle landing. The winds were calm and the gorgeous sunrise made it easy to spot animals moving around the plains.
What you need to know about Balloon Safaris, Ltd.
The balloon baskets vary in size, the largest carries up to 16 passengers plus the pilot. The flight cost is $450 per person and includes the flight, the champagne breakfast (quiche, boiled eggs, plain croissants, pastries, sausages, cheese, yogurt, tea, coffee, hot chocolate and more), and a personalized flight certificate.
Balloons don’t take off in winds greater than 15 mph so be prepared to reschedule in bad weather. They’re equipped with a camera to take a shot of passengers in flight; and the baskets allow enough space for you to bring a small bag and/or your own camera equipment with you. Mornings tend to be cooler so even in the summer a blanket or jacket might be needed. The baskets were sturdy, padded, and deep enough (I’m a tall 5’11) where I felt completely safe and secure the entire flight.
I didn’t have my children with me, however kids over a certain age are allowed to ride. You can inquire about age requirements, possible group pricing and other information at the Balloon Safari, Ltd. website, www.ballonsafaris.biz. Reservations can often also be handled by your tour operator/vacation planner or via the camp where you’re staying.