After a very early wake-up call made easier by a tray of hot chocolate and biscuits brought to my room, I walked to the launch site behind Little Governors Camp for 5:45am. As I arrived, the flames from the burner lit up the darkness; the crew were just beginning to inflate our hot air balloon. I gathered with the other guests and we were served tea and coffee and given a briefing whilst watching the rainbow coloured balloon inflate – it was enormous!
I then began to “board” the hot air balloon, trying to climb into the basket in the most lady-like way I could manage (needless to say this isn’t an easy feat) and sat down whilst the other guests clambered in. Dawn was about to break and I could feel the heat from the burner above my head as our pilot was preparing to launch. After one last blast of the flames the balloon had fully inflated, and as it was released we began to rise up into the sky.
For me, the most striking thing was how smooth the flight was; I’ve never experienced anything like it. We stood up from the basket, and right on point the sun was rising over the vast plains of the Mara, leaving us in awe of the landscape. Looking down on the misty forests in complete silence was very surreal. The most memorable sighting was when we floated towards a couple of vultures perched on top of a tree, surrounded by mist. It was very eerie, and approaching them with an eye line view was really captivating. Gazing out across the savannah, looking down on giraffes and watching hippo families wallowing in the mystical Mara River was the ultimate addition to my safari experience.
The fuel from the balloon lasted well so the flight time ended up being well over an hour. When we eventually began our descent, I was expecting a bumpy, drawn out landing but our experienced pilot ensured a smooth landing. It was after 7am by this point and we were looking out across a glorious sunny stretch of the Mara. Now for the champagne breakfast! Whilst the crew were deflating the hot air balloon, the waiting staff were preparing our breakfast; a dining table had been set out under a tree and was covered with plates of pastries and fresh fruit. We were served copious amounts of bacon, sausages, eggs, bread, tomatoes, mushrooms and our champagne glasses were always full. The icing on the cake for me was the pancakes, which were cooked over one of the burners from the balloon – very innovative! We tucked into this almighty feast with our pilot Mike, who kept us entertained with stories of his many adventures.
After we’d eaten our weight in food and finished off the champagne, we were transferred back to our camps. The journey doubled up as a game drive, and we were lucky enough to see a family of black rhinos on our way back, which are notoriously difficult to see in the Mara, so that was an absolutely amazing way to end what had been an incredible morning. I returned to camp at around 10am with a whole day of activities ahead of me. If you are looking for a once in a lifetime experience in one of the most exciting parts of Africa, I cannot recommend this balloon safari enough.