FAQs | Balloon Adventure Over The Maasai Mara, Kenya
ARE YOUR BALLOONS SAFE?
Our balloon is manufactured to the highest safety standards possible. Conventional hot air balloons also have the best safety record by far of all forms of aviation.
IS THERE A MINIMUM AGE OR MAXIMUM WEIGHT LIMIT?
We do not fly children under the age of 5 years. While we do not have a weight limit, we do request that you let us know in advance if you weigh over 250 pounds, so that we can adjust the weight distribution in the basket if necessary.
HOW DOES THE PILOT CONTROL THE BALLOON?
The balloon goes with the wind, but at different altitudes the wind often flows in different directions; by expertly navigating this vertical landscape the pilot finds some directional control. In order to gain or lose altitude, the pilot manipulates the temperature of the air inside the balloon envelope using burners fueled by butane gas. When heat is added, the balloon rises: add more heat and it rises more quickly. In order to descend, the pilot allows the balloon to cool naturally. The cooler the air inside the balloon becomes the more quickly it descends. Sometimes when the balloon is descending for landing the pilot actually adds some heat to slow down the rate of descent.
ARE TAKE-OFF AND LANDING ROUGH?
Take-off is generally quite gentle, although it may be a bit fast in windy conditions. If the wind is above 15 knots at the take-off site, we will not fly due to safety concerns. About 50% of our landings are what we call a “tip over” landing, where the balloon basket drags along the ground for about 20 meters before coming to a stop lying on its side. There can be a few bumps; however most of our guests experience a much rougher ride in their safari vehicles!
HOW LONG IS THE FLIGHT?
We typically fly between 15 to 25 kilometers and the flight lasts about one hour, depending on wind conditions. The entire experience (link to The experience), including transfer to the launch site, flight, breakfast, and game drive back to your lodge or camp, starts at about 5:00AM and finishes at about 10:00AM.
WHAT SHOULD I BRING WITH ME?
We encourage all guests to carry binoculars and cameras. We suggest closed shoes in case we need to walk through some grass after landing, and dressing in layers is best for the transition from the cool, dark early morning to the relatively hot late morning sun.
DO YOU EVER CANCEL A FLIGHT? WHAT HAPPENS IF MY FLIGHT IS CANCELED?
We rarely cancel flights and only do so due to high winds, rain, or extremely poor visibility. If your flight is canceled you will receive a 100% refund. Or, if your safari schedule allows and there is available space in the balloons, we can attempt to fly you the following day.
HOW MANY PEOPLE FIT IN THE BASKET?
Our balloon can hold a maximum of 16 people in a basket.
WHAT WILL I SEE?
Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve is the ultimate ballooning destination. The landscape is stunningly beautiful wildlife can make for spectacular viewings from above. As this is a wilderness area contiguous with the Serengeti National Park of Tanzania, with free-ranging wildlife that is not fenced in, we of course cannot guarantee what we will fly over and what we will see during a particular flight. We have had some truly amazing sightings over the years, including leopards in trees, lions on kills, and active hyena dens. If you visit the Mara between July and October, you will probably see the “Great Migration” of over a million wildebeest, along with large numbers of zebras and gazelles. Observing this phenomenon from the balloon is the best way to grasp just how huge the migrating herds really are, and is an experience not to be missed. Regardless of whether the “Big Five” are seen from the balloon, most people say that the balloon flight was a highlight of their safari.
WHERE WILL I FLY?
The Mara Reserve is 700square miles. We fly the Southern Boundaries of the Park. What's the experience like? A balloon flight is like no other experience, so it is difficult to describe adequately. The entire flight is very peaceful and passive; with little sense of motion or movement. Because we are moving with the wind, there is virtually no breeze to be felt or heard. From the stillness of our wicker basket you'll take on a new appreciation for the beauty around you - as you watch birds in flight below you, and as you discover the horizons from an altogether new perspective. You've simply got to experience hot air ballooning to understand what we mean.
WHEN DO WE FLY?
We fly one flight per day, seven days per week, weather permitting. These flights are at sunrise. This is when the winds are generally the calmest. Once you have booked and scheduled your flight we will maintain close contact with you. Our primary flying season is April through October. How long does it last? From the time we meet until we return, your balloon adventure will last approximately 2 1/2 hours, with an actual flight duration of about 45 minutes to one hour. Following the flight is our traditional champagne. What should I wear? For most comfort we suggest casual clothes for outdoor activities. Footwear such as sneakers, or deck shoes are recommended. Dress for the outside temperature and bring a light sweater or jacket for after the flight. Since there is limited room in the balloon basket so please avoid big back packs (which can be kept safely with the crew). Where does the flight take us? Since we go where the wind takes us, we cannot predict with absolute certainty where we will land. That's part of theadventure! Prevailing winds in Masai Mara is Westerly direction but experience has taught us well, and we know the local geography so that we always choose a launch site that will assure suitable landing sites. How do we get back to where we start? Every balloon flight has a chase crew which assists with inflation and follows the balloon in flight by 4x4 vechiles and by two-way radio. They help with packing up the balloon and returning the passengers and pilot back to the starting point. Our crew remains in constant contact with us during the flight, both visually and by radio, so they know where we are at all times.
HOW ABOUT CAMERAS?
Be sure to bring your camera and lots of film to record the entire experience. The balloons themselves are very colorful, and you'll want to take pictures during the setup and inflation process as well as during the flight. Video cameras are also welcome. And if you have an extra camera, give it to our ground crew so they can take some pictures of you in flight as they chase us by car.
WE'RE IN LOVE. CAN WE GET MARRIED IN A HOT AIR BALLOON OVER THE MASAI MARA?
Renewal of Vows, believe it or not, we accommodate many such requests. We can even arrange for your entourage to follow by balloon or with our chase crews, for an informal reception as the new bride and groom come back to Earth after the ceremony in the sky. The Masai mara as viewed from a hot air balloon is the perfect setting for any wedding.
HOW FAR IN ADVANCE DO I NEED TO BOOK?
If you have a large group or would like to fly on a weekend you may need to book a couple of weeks in advance. But some days are busier than others so if you have a date in mind do not hesitate to contact us.
WHICH SEASON HAS THE BEST WEATHER FOR FLYING?
You can have good or bad days at any time of year, we take it on a day by day basis.
HOW DOES A BALLOON FLY?
Hot air balloons fly because hot air rises. Hot air rises because it is less dense than the cooler air around it and so it tends to 'float' on the cooler air. We use a burner to heat the air in the balloon until it is hotter than the air outside the balloon. Once it is, the balloon will rise, carrying us with it. If we were to allow the balloon to cool it would begin do descend as it becomes the same temperature as the outside air. If we were to let some of the hot air out of the balloon the same thing would happen because there would no longer be enough hot air in the balloon to lift us. Gas balloons work on a similar principle except that they use helium gas, which is less dense, and therefore lighter, than air to achieve the same effect.
HOW HIGH DO YOU FLY?
How high we fly depends, (like so many things in ballooning), on the winds on the day. At different heights there are different wind layers in which the wind has different speeds and directions. On an average flight we go from tree-top level up to thousand feet, (several hundred meters).
DO YOU NEED A LICENSE TO FLY A BALLOON?
Yes, our pilots have Commercial Pilot Balloon Licenses, we are just like any other aviation charter business and all of the same rules and regulations apply.
HOW BIG IS A BALLOON?
There are many different sizes of balloon from small, one person balloons to very large ones that can carry twenty people or more. Our Balloon is Cameron 415000 cubic feet and carries 16 people and a pilot.There are 4 compartments which accommodate 4 people each with pilot in center. Our balloon have high density Foam bench seats and rope handles for safe landing.
WHY DO YOU FLY SO EARLY IN THE MORNING?
Although we need some wind to fly the balloon we can't fly if there is too much. We fly in the early morning because the winds are at their calmest then. Also, a lower ambient temperature means that it is easier to get the balloon off the ground and keep it in the air because we don't have to heat it to such a high temperature.
HOW IS A BALLOON INFLATED?
We begin by laying the basket on it's side and then laying out the envelope, (the balloon bit), and attaching it by very strong wires to the basket. Then we inflate the balloon with cold air using a portable petrol-powered fan. When the envelope is almost completely inflated with cold air we turn on the burners and begin to heat the air inside. This will make the balloon begin to rise to an up-right position. Then we just keep heating the air until it is hot enough to take us up for a ride.
WHAT IS THE BALLOON MADE OF?
The first panel of the balloon is made of Nomex which is extremely fire-retardant. The material from the 2nd panel up is blend of special polyester materials.
WHY DO YOU STILL USE WICKER FOR THE BASKETS?
Wicker is light in weight, flexible and very strong - and besides, it looks so nice......
HOW MUCH DOES THE BALLOON WEIGH?
Our balloon weighs approx 1500 kilos fully fueled.
WHAT TYPE OF GAS DO YOU USE?
LPG - liquid Butane gas, the same thing you might use in your gas b-b-q.
DO YOU FLY IN THE RAIN?
No. It is not very pleasant to fly in the rain. The rain cools the balloon down, adds a lot of extra weight to the balloon and due to the curved shape of the balloon the water does not drip off, but gathers in the load tapes and runs down the sides and you get covered in a hot dirty shower.
HOW MANY PEOPLE CAN YOU CARRY?
Our balloon is licensed to carry up to sixteen passengers plus the pilot but it also has a weight limit, so sometimes we get to the weight limit before we get to the 16 passengers.
WHAT DAYS OF THE WEEK CAN I FLY?
Any day you like - we operate seven days a week but we are dependent on the weather. We won't fly if the wind is too strong or it is raining.
WHAT TIME DO I NEED TO BE THERE?
We meet about an hour before sunrise. Don't worry, when you book we will let you know the exact time you will need to be where you need to be.
HOW COLD DOES IT GET UP THERE?
Generally it doesn't get much colder 'up there' than what it is on the ground. You don't feel any wind because you are moving at the same speed as the wind. We also find that the burner acts as a pretty good heater.