This blog post requires a little backstory. My amazing husband, Chuck, has been working on conquering his fear of heights for as long as I’ve known him.
There were times when we first met that he’d freeze on a tall escalator with open sides, we skipped going to the top of the Sear’s Tower, and I did anything that required getting up on a ladder.
He took baby steps and somewhere along the way he decided that he was missing out on so much and made huge steps. A helicopter flight to the top of a glazier in Skagway Alaska, climbing to the top of The Great Wall of China were once in a lifetime experiences I’m glad he didn’t pass up.
Hot Air Balloon Ride
This trip to Kenya took overcoming this fear one immense step farther.
We added the optional Hot Air Balloon Ride to our Gate 1 Travel tour package, it was our last full day in Kenya, and this was a sunrise flight over the Maasai Mara with breakfast. Chuck figured if he was going to die in a fiery crash, at least it would be at the end of the lifelong dream and he would die happy…lol
A 4am wakeup call, a half cup of coffee for me, get ready and dressed to head out by 4:30am.
Trekking across the mara anytime is exciting as there are obviously no street signs, there are few markers in general, and all of the paths weave, and wind and to us look the same.
The driver, George from the balloon tour was a champ; The ride was smooth and stress-free. We arrived at the Fig Tree Resort where ballooners from other tour companies and resorts were starting to gather for some coffee and tea.
The Adventure Begins
A short while later everyone took a walk across the resort to a vast open plain with four hot air balloons lying flat on the ground in the dark.
If you have never been near a hot air balloon, these monsters are immense and take quite a team. Our pilot Ismael said that 4 to 5 midsized cars would fit inside of the fully inflated balloon with a basket containing 15 of us.
Full of Hot Air
They begin inflating the balloon in the dark, with enormous fans blowing air into the balloon to open it up a bit. Then the team starts firing off the burners and expands the balloon with heated air until it gets fully expanded and upright. It takes a sizable crew to keep it anchored while they finished a safety check, gave us instructions on boarding and our landing procedure and positions.
After climbing into one of the four divided sections of the basket, we were up, up and away. As we took off, slightly before sunrise, we could see the other balloons below us inflating and taking off.
The balloon is magical, the patchwork of colors, the way the bursts of hot air lift the balloon and how pulling strings for interior vents allows hot air to escape. And you just float where the wind takes you.
As the sun came up, we could see other groups of balloons off in the distance. We floated over herds of zebra, gazelle, and a group of warthogs. We also saw a hippo, hyenas and wildebeests.
The mara seemed to extend forever, there was nothing but plains, animals and a few balloons as far as we could see.
After traveling about 5 kilometers, we touched down and were retrieved by our driver in an open-air safari vehicle (our Gate 1 vehicles had glass windows). After a few pics with our new friends Sabrina, Lance and Tristen we took off for a short drive to our Champagne breakfast.
Just before we reached our breakfast destination, we came across a group of three lions, sitting just a few feet off the road and super close to the truck. The one with no windows!
Breakfast Is Served
We reached a destination in the middle of nowhere; literally, there was nothing but open spaces and rolling hills for as far as we could see.
They had rolled in several large trucks and set up two full buffets with a full breakfast of juice, fresh fruit, potatoes, bacon, and sausage, as well as omelets made to order. There was lots of fresh coffee and champagne, and it was surreal being out there.
We even ate off of real china that was branded with hot air balloons and the Adventures Aloft logo!
All The Comforts of Home
Off a short distance from where breakfast was set, there were several tall canvass rectangles with a wooden riser and seat inside. The simplest of bathrooms but not too bad given there were very few trees to go behind and animals roaming off in the distance.
The team was incredible, Chuck was a bit nervous during takeoff and until we leveled off but I know he had the time of his life!