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Masai Mara Balloon Safari

A super early start to the day with a 4am wake up call. I had spent my last night packing, organizing tips/thank you cards and going through some of my photos so I was very sleep deprived when woken up. I shuffled out to the lounge area to grab a quick coffee and then a gentleman from the balloon company came in to say he was ready for me.

The balloon departure site was not too far away and I was dropped off with a number of other guests around 5:15am. We were taken to a small meeting room where we were asked to sign away our lives before grabbing a coffee and some cake that were provided before departure. Then we assembled outside to watch the balloon being filled and the basket turning upright.

The early morning light from the sun before it rose was starting to color the sky with purples and pinks and illuminated the clouds forming around the Mara. We were asked to gather into groups that we wanted to travel in so people would travel in their compartment with their friends/family. There were going to be 14 people flying this morning so it meant that there would be 4 people in each compartment. I thought the other solo traveller and myself were in luck and would only be a compartment of 2 until one of the workers came out with a companion and joined us in the basket. As we prepared to leave the workers started to undue ropes that were attaching us to the large pickup truck and the basket slowly rose above the tree line allowing us to see the majesty of the Mara from above.

The magnitude of the silence and sheer enormity of the reserve was there for all of us to see. The only sounds initially were the blast of the propane tanks filling the balloon above so we continue to rise high. Then the pilot decided we all needed another lesson about where we were and what we couldn’t see. This was really disappointing because I thought that such a special moment should not have been interrupted by anyone and that there are few opportunities to allow the silence to just wash over us and appreciate where we were and what we could see. As we flew slowly along I managed to get some great footage from my cameras and to also enjoy being in the moment. The plains were empty except for one buffalo so there was no entertainment value from animal sightings but the landscapes and colors as the sun rose and the golden hour arrived made the flight very special.

The landing was uneventful and we even managed to stay upright which was better than the crash landing I had recently experienced in France only weeks earlier. We were then all asked to board the safari vehicles so we could make our way to our champagne breakfast in the bush. Upon arriving at the breakfast spot we were welcomed with a glass of bubbly and then sat down to a lovely bush breakfast out amongst the plains. The balloon staff were all very attentive and the food was very good. Soon Charity arrived as we had prearranged an early pick up so I could take advantage of a long morning game drive before going back to camp for a late lunch.

I would have to say that the flight was a very nice experience but in hindsight I would only fly with the other operator in the area run from Governor’s Camp which I believe offers a better opportunity to see animals from their departure point and also nice views and better photographic opportunities as they generally follow the Mara River. Considering the price of these balloon safaris it is also important to understand that you will not necessarily see animals from above unless you fly in the migration period. If you are not fussed about animal sightings then this experience is very nice but you pay for it.

After another great morning with Charity we returned to camp to enjoy my last meal in the bush. With my bags packed I was able to just sit outside and enjoy the view of the Masai Mara in front of me with one last Amarula. I knew that I would return again and not knowing where or when but as all visitors to Africa know it really does get under your skin and the desire to return and experience it again is beyond anywhere else I have travelled to.

I bid goodbye to all of the Bateleur staff and an extra special thank you to Charity who allowed me to have a unique safari experience with one of the first female guides in the bush. I took my afternoon flight back to Nairobi and was then transferred to Jomo Kenyatta for evening flight back to Abu Dhabi and then onwards to Almaty.

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