As I was planning our recent safari with Rothschild Safaris, I realized our travel dates would fall over my daughter’s 14th birthday. I thought, what better way to celebrate the occasion than with a once-in-a-lifetime experience like a hot air balloon ride over Kenya’s Maasai Mara game reserve?
The driver from the balloon safari company you choose will most likely overnight at your camp, as a very early departure is required to get to the takeoff location. I thought my kids would complain about a predawn wake-up call on vacation, but the excitement and anticipation cancelled out any grumbling. We did a game drive en route and spotted several hyenas — seeing their piercing eyes glowing in the dark was a surreal experience.
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Once at the takeoff location, the pilot does introductions and gives a safety briefing. Sensing a little anxiety about our first balloon ride, he explained in great detail what to expect and put us all at ease. Hearing the jets fire and watching the balloon inflate, with the sun starting to rise in the background, was just magical. Before we knew it we were in the air.
There is simply no way to describe the feeling of floating with the wind above the savanna while the rising sun slowly warms you up, as the colors change from the softness of dawn to the vividness of day in the wilderness.
Seeing the wildlife from above, as well as the landscape, was breathtaking. After about an hour of floating high up in the sky, we descended to a soft landing and were rewarded with a wonderful champagne breakfast.
TIP: Hot air balloon experiences are usually booked as part of a complete safari experience. As there are many vendors and quality can vary greatly, we always suggest you book through a knowledgable tour operator like our preferred family safari operator, Rothschild Safaris. Our Ciao Bambino Family Vacation Advisors can help get your safari adventure started.
If you have a bucket list of exceptional and exciting experiences, add this one! It is definitely a splurge, but well worth it. Click below to check out video highlights from our ride.
Exciting new Africa safari options for families are opening up. Read more >
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Editor’s Note: Sandy was hosted by Rothschild Safaris on the hot air balloon ride. As always, our thoughts and opinions are our own on Ciao Bambino. Photos by Sandy Pappas except where noted.
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Hot air ballooning in Africa sounds magnificent.