Our Africa expert, Louisa, decided to explore Kenya from a whole new perspective. Exploring the endless plains of the Maasai Mara on a game drive is a pretty special. However, floating above the endless plains and grunting hippos in a hot air balloon is probably the icing on the cake.
We arrived at the Governors Camps balloon launch site before dawn (yes, it’s a very early start) where tea or coffee were waiting. We watched the vast balloon being inflated with growing anticipation and excitement. We were given our safety briefing and shown how to brace ourselves for landing. Then it was time for our experience of a lifetime balloon safari to begin. We climbed into the basket and with the whoosh and the heat of the burners, we slowly floated up into the air and over the treetops. We glided silently down over the Mara River, where the almost deafening frog song filled the air after the rains. On my numerous prior visits to the Maasai Mara it’s has always been during the dry season, so it was incredible to see the vast amount of water on the ground making it look more like Botswana’s Okavango Delta than the usually arid plains of the Mara.
Mike, our very experienced pilot who had started flying in 1977, pointed out birds perched in the upper branches of trees and game, which looked very different from a bird’s eye view. From grunting pods of hippo to elephants wandering across the lush green plains and we even saw a couple of vast Nile crocodile having a scrap over a fish.
As we floated along the meandering Mara River, I thought of a rememberable geography lesson, when I must have been 12, all about meandering rivers and how on bow lakes are formed (Miss Holder would have been proud!) These oxbow lakes were teaming with bird life and full of even more pods of hippo. I suddenly appreciated how the Mara River is said to be home to 80,000 hippos.
After a textbook landing, with only a small couple of bumps we were swept off for our well-deserved bush breakfast. A table had been set up under an acacia tree and a feast of delicious pancakes, scrambled eggs and champagne were served to celebrate our eventful morning.