Its 5:30 am somewhere in the Kenya 鈥檚 Masai Mara plains. The skies are dark but the birds are starting. You are waken up by a soft yet consistent tap on your door, if you are in a tent the lodge steward brings with him a light bell and at this point you are probably thinking why you need such an early rise whist on vacation in Africa. As you sip your hot coffee and fresh cookies just delivered on your room terrace or balcony, you can 鈥檛 stop thinking what awaits you head. My advice is, stop and go experience a once in a life time Your Balloon Safari vehicle will collect you from your Masai mara lodge or camp and transfer you in a 4x4 to the launch site. Here you will meet your pilot and receive a briefing as you watch the inflation of the colorful monster, its an awesome sight as the skies are not clear yet, the flames engulf the launch area and light up the cool morning, the bust, the African sounds, the whistling thorns, the hyenas family further down the plains, the African crew chanting in a local vernacular language as they assemble the flight, then calm river nearby seem to settle your heart as it races in your chest. It 鈥檚 magical you think. At dawn you take off, rising as the sun rises and float in whichever direction the winds of the morning take you. Your pilot can precisely control the altitude of your balloon. Sometimes flying at treetop height, sometimes lower, offering a unique perspective and great photographic opportunities of the wildlife below. At other times he will probably ascend to 1000' or more to see the enormity and wonderful panorama of Kenyas Masai mara. If the annual wild beast migration is on, then you have a birds eye view of one of one of the eight wonders of the world. Your video and cameras better not fail. From time to time the pilot must put more heat into the balloon with the powerful whisper burners. In between these burns, there is silence apart from the natural sounds below. This is the moment you wish all the people you care about are with you to witness what you see. The flight is for about one hour depending on conditions, and eventually you must land. You celebrate in the traditional manner with champagne, before sitting down to a full English breakfast prepared and served in the bush in 'Africa style 鈥?with bone china, linen table cloths, King's silver etc. After breakfast you receive your Balloon certificate complete with your full names and you are driven back to our rendezvous point game viewing enroute. You haven 鈥檛 had the last of the Masai mara yet. Now, another location is Northern Laikipia Kenya 61,000 acres of private game ranch, Accommodation options include. Loisaba Lodge. Set on the escarpment with 7 rooms. Each room has its own private deck overlooking the views of Laikipia. The lodge has a swimming pool, tennis court, spa and massage room. Kiboko Star Beds are twenty minutes drive from the lodge and overlook a waterhole. Koija Star Beds are thirty minutes drive from the lodge and overlook the Ewaso Nyiro River. Each Star Bed is designed on a raised, handcrafted, wooden platform that is partially covered with a thatched roof. Homemade 鈥楳 ukokoteni 鈥?beds can either be wheeled onto the open deck for a night under the stars, or left under the shelter of the roof. Loisaba Cottage is approximately nine kilometers from the main lodge. It is set back from the escarpment in beautifully landscaped gardens with a private swimming pool. The Cottage has three double en-suite rooms with shower and one double room with access to large bathroom via an external staircase. Loisaba House is a truly exclusive, self-contained private house with cliff-top infinity pool, built on the edge of the escarpment entirely from local stone and thatch. The location and architecture of the house are breathtaking, as are the furnishings, most of which have been designed and made at Loisaba. Two bedrooms ensuite, one double and one twin. Activities include, game safaris in 4 wheel drive vehicles and night game safaris, guided bush and bird walks, horse riding, camel riding and mountain biking, cultural visits, bush meals and sundowners. River rafting and river fishing, tennis, croquet, swimming pool, helicopter excursions and quad biking, Spa or Massage and of Balloon safaris. If anyone can afford it plan to be in Kenya 鈥檚 Laikipia plains on your next safari vacation. Yet another fantastic launch pad for Kenya balloons safaris is The Great Rift Valley on The Lake Nakuru and Lake Naivasha region. They insist on a minimum of two persons and a maximum of eight persons. The launch site is at Lake Elementaita or Soysambu ranch, the pick up time will depend on the location of the Lodge you stayed in at and will usually be between 5.00 and 6 .00 am. The Great Rift Valley was formed around Thirty five million years ago by the tectonic rifting of the African continental plate from the Arabian plate. About the same time the African plate collided with the Eurasian plate and the Alps were formed. The Rift Valley stretches 6000 kilometres from Syria through the Red Sea, down to the Mozambique. The width varies from 30 to 100 kilometres. In Kenya the deepest point is north of Nairobi in the Lake Naivasha and Nakuru region where the ground is punctuated with dormant volcanoes such as Longonot, Suswa and Menengai, and numerous smaller ones such as the Sleeping Warrior near Elementaita. A balloon flight in the area reveals the bizarre volcanic landscape which is believed still to be changing and finally splitting the African Continent into 2 by the expansion of the Red Sea into a new ocean. Your launch takes place at around 6.30 am and after the one hour flight over and along the shores of Lake Elementaita. They serve a champagne breakfast and return the guests to their respective hotels or their allocated driver picks them up at 8.30 am from the breakfast site near the Mau Narok road and proceed with a safari. The health and safety standards are amongst the best in the world when it comes to Kenya ballooning. The most sophisticated technology for fire fighting as well as inflating the balloons. The environmental friendliness is unquestionable as the balloon companies goes out of our way to protect the Masai Mara by using silent generators to solar heating. The pilots are highly experienced balloon operators and have accumulated numerous hours in the profession. They have also spent a lot of time in the Masai Mara and this has provided them with excellent knowledge of the Masai Mara and made them good tour guides. Renowned pilots included Mr. Michael McGrath. He started his flying career in 1979 and has since accumulated over 4,000 hours from flying in over 17 countries including crossing the Swiss Alps, the Pyrenees, the Scottish Highlands and assisting in two round the world attempts. He moved to Kenya in 1988 to fly balloons over the Masai Mara. Mr. Gelbart Shachar is also qualified on both a fixed wing aircraft as well as commercial balloons. He has flown in Canada, America and Kenya. He has been in Kenya since 1993. They call it a voyage though destiny and time and there can never be a better way to wrap up your Kenya Safari. Henry Kahuki is an online Africa safaris consultant based in Kenya. The operator of Magical Africa safaris Ltd. http://www.magicalafrica.net an eco-friendly safari agency catering for family safaris, senior travels, individual safaris and camping and offers comprehensive safari arrangements in Africa, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Lodges and hotel bookings http://www.magicalafrica.net/africa_safaris.htm and budget camping wildlife safaris in Kenya and self drive 4x4 car hire.
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