‘Have you ever wondered what the wild looks like from up above? What about how an eagle finds its prey before its stealthy dive to catch it? If you were given the opportunity to glide and watch the world below pass you by, would you take it?’ Aleema, Marketing Executive at Gamewatchers Safaris & Porini Camps, did and it was one of the best moments of her life.
‘I was in the Masai Mara, Kenya, for two nights, and after my afternoon game drive on the first day, someone from our balloon safari company was waiting for us back at camp for a short briefing on how it works. “We will come and get you at 4.30 a.m.” Did he say am? I was on a holiday! As I listened to his briefing about the balloon safari, and signed a disclaimer form, I started to wonder if I really wanted to do this – the idea of waking up that early in the morning was not tempting me at all.
We had dinner and rolled into our tents early. Whether it was the anxiety of waking up so early or sheer excitement I barely slept that night. I tossed and turned and kept thinking about being in a balloon. Finally, the time came as I heard someone say, “Good morning, it’s time for your wakeup call” – It was already 4 am!
“Jambo!” the driver greeted us with his smile. All he heard from me was a mumble jumble of: “Yes, Jambo, morning…” Once again I told myself: “this balloon ride better be worth it.”
As dawn started creeping in, there was a lot of activity. The pilot introduced himself as he tugged on different ropes and opened the gas casket at intervals. In between all of this, he was giving us a talk on balloon flight etiquette. I watched in fascination as the air was being blown into the balloon and it was starting to take shape. Our pilot then showed us how to get inside the basket that was lying at a 90 degree angle on the ground. So when we got in, we were with our backs parallel to the ground. I actually thought this was a joke, but then it made sense as the balloon grew larger, lifted off the ground and brought the basket the right side up.
There was a soft breeze, and the balloon team was pulling at the ropes. Finally, we moved. The team released the ropes from our balloon and we lifted off the ground. We were making a slow and smooth ascent and every moment was spectacular! The sun was rising, the sky was clearing and the ground was slowly expanding to provide us with a panoramic view of the wilderness! The rays of the sun brightened the sky, and there was a layer of mist that added to the romance and mystery.
We spotted elephants in the thicket of trees, and saw a hippo running. Gazelles and wildebeests were jogging away, and we flew over the river. A lion and his companion winded their way in and out off the bush followed by an unsuspecting jackal. We passed over a body of water and the sun rays glinted off the surface. This was supernatural. I felt like I was living a fairy tale from my childhood. Everyone was buzzing with laughter and excitement as we kept on spotting different game.
Our descent was as exciting as the ascent. From way above, we slowly started coming down. At about 10 feet off the ground, the pilot told us to sit down and hold on for our landing. A bit of a bounce here and there and we finally came to a stop. The sun was bright in the sky and there was a team waiting to take us for a champagne breakfast.
As I looked around and saw the expressions of happiness, peace and excitement on everyone’s faces, I realised how lucky I was to be part of this enchanting experience. A bush breakfast, out in the middle of nowhere, with a spectacular sky over head, and the endless backdrop of one of the world’s most natural wonders, I knew I was experiencing something truly out of this world – it felt like magic. I wanted to fly again.’
Does Aleema have you longing to rise with Africa at dawn for your own magical balloon safari? Get in touch with safari experts and you too could be floating above the magnificent Masai Mara.
Jake Grieves-Cook, synonymous with Porini Camps, was the Personal Contribution Tourism Award runner up at the 2015 Safari Awards.
Porini Amboseli Camp, Kenya – 3rd place in the 2015 Safari Awards Kenya Results
Set in the Selenkay Conservancy, well off the beaten track, in the heart of Masailand, Kenya, you truly feel you’re in the African wilderness away from the crowds. With views of snow-capped Mt Kilimanjaro, the conservancy’s own private fourwheel-drive track to Amboseli National Park and the camp’s viewing platforms overlooking the waterholes where elephants and other wildlife come to drink, Porini Amboseli Camp offers guests a very special safari experience.