The ride is normally done early in the mornings at approximately 0630am in time to enjoy the sunrise glow in the distant horizon. The good thing about the Mara weather is that it is conducive for balloon rides to be operated daily, throughout the year. Our company operations base and launch site is close to Talek River bordering Masai Mara Game Reserve, but during windy times we use a launch site INSIDE the park, approximately 7 Minutes-drive (4km) from Talek Gate, just off the main Talek-Keekorok road.
The flight usually lasts approximately one hour, and covers anything between 5 and 20 km from launch to landing. The total distance covered is always dependent on the wind conditions on any given day. The entire excursion from pick up at the camp/lodge to drop off back at the camp or lodge varies from a 4.00am departure to a 6.00am departure, depending on the close proximity/location of said camp/lodge. There is plenty of photographic opportunities on board and also on the ground to & from the balloon excursion including game drive en-route back to your camp/lodge by around 1030am.
As a rule of thumb, we generally don't fly children under the height of the basket or under age of 3 years. There is no upper age limit, provided passengers are reasonably fit and ready to enjoy the adventurous soaring across the majestic plains. For client’s own safety, ballooning is not suitable for pregnant ladies, persons with health conditions; heart matters, brittle bones, neck or back conditions. Any balloon flight requires a certain amount of physical strength to climb in/out of the basket, in case the basket is standing upright OR lying on its side. People with impaired mobility may be accommodated with prior notice to helps us plan for them.
We encourage guests to carry binoculars, cameras and if so desirous, a “selfie stick’ to catch those very fine once-in -a-life-time moments!
Dressing in layers; warm Jacket/fleece is best for the transition from the cool, dark early morning to the relatively late morning sunrays. It is normally cool in the early mornings and as you watch and wait for the balloons to be inflated, the chilly morning breeze can be uncomfortable. Once on board, the heat from burners above makes all around you warm. Trousers, long sleeved shirts/tops and closed shoes come in handy in case we need to walk through some grass after landing.
Hot air rises…..The balloon normally glides 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 gently rises. 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. As the balloon descends and approaches for landing the pilot will adds some bursts of heat from the burners to slow down the rate of descent and ensure landing is safely done with the expertise of a Mara Pilot.
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. While most of the landings are smooth, some landings are what we call a “tip over” landing, where the balloon basket drags along the ground for some meters before coming to a stop lying on its side. There may be a few bumpy landings though... all steered safely to a stop.
We rarely cancel flights (~5 times per year), 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.
Our balloons can hold a maximum of 16 people in a basket.
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