I had never been on a hot air balloon prior to February 2015 and have since floated over the Napa Valley and the Temples of Bagan and both were incredible experiences. Softly gliding over the Maasai Mara on a hot air balloon was an experience of comparable proportions, one that captured my imagination and made me feel like Indiana Jones.
But nothing explains the emotions and the shivers that go down your spine as you take off and effortlessly fly over the plains of Africa’s most exciting reserve. I’ll try share those emotions with you through the collection of photos from my hot air balloon experience over the Maasai Mara.
Inflating the hot air balloon
Arriving before dawn, when it was still pitch dark and we could barely see around us, the balloons started to be filled with hot air and rose pretty quickly above the ground. Once they were up, we had to quickly jump into the baskets. This all needs to be done before sunrise by the way.
The first rays of sun on the horizon
As the first rays of sunlight start to wake up in the horizon, all the balloons must be in the sky. This creates a perfect frame of balloons at different heights, depending on where the wind currents are and the speed at which the pilots want them to go.
Hot air balloon selfie
Perhaps the most impressive of the photos is this selfie taken by our pilot via his GoPro which was attached to two strings and a bar and hanging from the bottom of the balloon, where it meets the basket. It was a great angle and photo. But wait till you check out for the video!
The sun is almost out
The total time spent in the air is around an hour and the sun quickly makes its way up from the horizon. When it does, the colours and the light are simply incredible, bringing out the perfect fiery hues.
Hot air balloon baskets
I managed to capture the detail of this basket from another group in a rather pristine clarity against the rising sun. The GoPro can also be seen hanging from the bottom right. The mesmerised facial expressions of the explorers, attached to their binoculars and cameras, were just the same as me.
Descending over a tower
As the wind pushed us through the plains, our pilot had to control the speed through our altitude and the temperature of the running air in the sky. We had a maximum limit, we could not go over the river because there was no crossing for our pick up cars. As we approached our landing, a tower, well actually a group of giraffes, was frightened by the few cars and hot air balloons coming down and started running, creating this majestic image. The cars that dropped us at take off point drove through the park to the landing breakfast spot and waited for our arrival.
Following the leader
Just like us, the rest of the hot air balloons started to arrive in groups at our landing point in the Maasai Mara to facilitate the descent. The cars, driving behind, raised a dust storm that provided the perfect canvas to the sunlight.
What goes on behind the scenes at a hot air balloon safari
I was completely taken in by the landscapes, the views and the warmth of the light. The sun was a big ball of fire. Coming up from the darkest hour, just after a meteorite shower that awarded us a few shooting stars, I climbed into the basket and spent one hour simply wrapped up by the magic of the moment. I forgot that Edwin was there too, I barely heard our pilot, that’s the reason why I am facing away in all the photos he took. I was just frozen by the pure beauty of it all.
Maasai Mara wildlife from a hot air balloon safari
Flat shadows of passing wildlife were created as we descended from the skies. Surprisingly, the animals did not seem to care or to be too scared of the balloons and seemed to mind their own business.