Balloon rides/worth it?

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Feb 12th, 2005, 07:59 AM
  #1
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Balloon rides/worth it?

We are in the final stages of planning our June/July trip to Kenya and Tanzania and are considering the hot air balloon ride. Four hundred dollars in a lot of money, but we'll bite the bullet if it's a really worthwhile experience. Any feedback from those of you who've done this would be appreciated. Also, if given a choice, would you recommend the Serengeti or the Masai Mara balloon ride? Thank you,
Barbara
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Feb 12th, 2005, 08:09 AM
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All I can tell you is that I didn't do the ballon ride when I was in Kenya 5 years ago and I have been kicking myself for not doing it!
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Feb 12th, 2005, 08:19 AM
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Personally, I think for me it would depend on whether the wildebeest migration were in the area or not.

I was lucky enough to win a balloon trip over Governor's Camp in a charity auction for about 1/6 of the normal price and for that price I enjoyed it very much indeed, however, we saw very little game and I did not, personally, feel the experience was worth the full price others paid.

I know I'd feel differently if the balloon trip gave me an aerial view of the huge wildebeest (and zebra) herds though.
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Feb 12th, 2005, 02:04 PM
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We always do the hot air balloon ride and have done it twice in Kenya, on the Mara. Both times from Little Governors Camp. Loved it both times. I love it whether there are a lot of animals or not. I just love the feel of floating and the birds eye prospective of the trees, etc. That is the closest you can come to the feel of flying free I think.
I was told we couldn't balloon ride on the Serengeti and by the time we got there we couldn't add it in. I would do it both places, but that's just how I feel about it. I'd even do it in Namibia although you aren't seeing animals, just the prospective of being up there floating free. You just have to decide for yourself. It is very expensive, but if I pay that much to get there, hey, I'm going to do it. Liz
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Feb 12th, 2005, 02:41 PM
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Bo

I believe Little Governor's in the Mara is the best place for the balloon because of the interesting landscape. That is where I did my balloon ride, about the same time of year that you are going. You can't predict the animal activity, nor can the balloon really steer to get to it, but you can count on the landscape near Little Governor's, with the meandering streams, being picturesque. At least that is what my agent suggested when I asked the same question as you are asking before departing on my first safari.

First let me tell you what everyone else in the 3 balloons that took off that morning thought (to the best of my knowledge). Upon landing they exclaimed how much they loved it and were downright giddy with excitement. For many this was the final activity of their safari and they found it to be an appropriate grand finale and highlight of their entire safari. These were people who had been to Africa before as well as first timers. There were some Japanese couples that went daily for the 3-4 days they were in camp and were just as thrilled on the last day as the first.

Now for fuddy-duddy me: I didn't really like it. I had been all excited about going with my only concerns that it would be scary or make my stomach jump. It was not scary and was very gentle so that part was great. I did not like the loud roar of the fire and the noise also seemed to scare the animals a bit. On our ride we saw lots of game and herds of wildebeest and zebra. But the viewing was from so high up I didn't care for it. That should have been part of my expectation, but I thought maybe we could swoop down a little more. To sum it up for me it was more of a "ride" that happened to be in Africa and it was a less intimate experience with the wildlife than most other methods of viewing.

I have found other non-traditional safari activites to be very enjoyable--boating, canoeing, camel rides, elephant riding, so it's not that I'm such a purist or must have optimal photograph conditions.

I'd be interested if anyone else had this opinion or if I am just a fuddy-duddy when it comes to ballooning.

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Feb 12th, 2005, 03:00 PM
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YES YES YES...
We did it both - in Masai mara and Serengeti. Liked both which much amazing riding (distance + height + speed in Serengeti).
Don't hesitate ... do it!!
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Feb 14th, 2005, 09:54 AM
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I did the balloon ride over the Mara several years ago. Dawn was beautiful and there was a champagne bush breakfast afterward that was fun and there were beautiful views of the landscape. Not too much in the way of animal viewing though.

I probably wouldn't do it again, but am glad I did it the first time.
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Feb 14th, 2005, 10:09 AM
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I'm like cruisinred. I had the opportunity to do it in several times in Kenya and once in Tanzania and didn't do it because of the cost. I am still kicking myself!
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Feb 14th, 2005, 01:21 PM
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I did the balloon in the Mara just a couple of weeks ago & feel it was worth every cent as it was my first balloon ride anywhere in the world. Skimming the trees & floating over all the animals & the river was just absolutely breathtaking. The noise & heat from the burners didn't bother me as much due to my placement in the basket but do take a hat just in case. The landing is quite a surprise & the champagne breakfast is a just finish to an very early mornings' adventure.
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Feb 14th, 2005, 04:41 PM
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I took the balloon ride in the Serengeti on my A&K safari in February, 2002--it was the highlight of my trip. I have the whole thing on video and 35mm still photos. I would do it again in a minute and as a matter of face, I am going to Egypt next month and hope to do it in Luxor.
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Feb 15th, 2005, 11:18 AM
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We went up over the Mara last June and while we enjoyed the ride (and the landing!) we did not think it was worth $400. We've also been balloning in Albuquerque.
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Jul 28th, 2005, 06:35 PM
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I really appreciate all replies and thoughtful information. It is amazing the tips you pick up. I wouldn't have thought to pack a book light. I have flown over the Napa and it was a great adventure, but at half the cost. I look forward to more replies.

Chris
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Jul 28th, 2005, 11:22 PM
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Does anyone know: How possible is it to photograph / video the experiemce? Is there room to maneuver in the basket? Would you recommend stills or video or both? Wide angle or telephoto?
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Jul 29th, 2005, 02:19 AM
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There's a reasonable amount of room, yes. Some passengers had video, I took my SLR. I'd take a small camera bag so you have both wide and telephoto as the one you use depends on what you see down below. You'll want to take wide landscapes as well as possibly focus on interesting sightings below.
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Jul 29th, 2005, 10:09 AM
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I've done the balloon rides in both locations and enjoyed them both. In neither case was the Migration in view, but there were other animals and stunning landscapes. Watching a sunrise from the balloon was a great experience. You can't look at it as just another type of game drive. It's the entire experience that I would recommend. The special breakfast at the end is always fun, too.

Photography: I've done both still photography and videography with good results. ALL balloon landings are crash landings, however, so be prepared to tuck away your gear before landing.

Serengeti or Mara: The Serengeti only allows 2 balloons to fly once a day from the Central Serengeti (Seronera area.) You have to go to the Wildlife Lodge the day before to take care of paperwork, even though you've signed up in advance. If you aren't staying in that area, you'll spend too much time getting to that area two days in a row (paperwork day and flight day.) Kenya allows more flights, so you may have more opportunities. It all depends on where you're staying. I agree that the landscape we saw in the Mara was probably more interesting than the Serengeti plains. If you're there in late June, the Migration will probably have moved out of the Central Serengeti area, which was my experience last June.
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Aug 1st, 2005, 03:45 PM
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We did not but lots of people in our group did the balloon ride in the Mara. The landing was hard on some especially the one lady who tumbled out of the basket onto a "young" black spitting cobra who slithered away into the grass. Our guide says it did not strike because it was probably in shock by a basket full of people falling on him. We decided early on when we arrived not to do the balloon ride in favor of spreading the $700 around to people who could use it more than we could use the thrill. We did it through random donations here and there to many people. Three-quarters of Kenyans make a wage of the equivalent of one U.S. dollar a day. That is the only reason why I do not regret doing the ride. The people who did said it was spectacular and really enjoyed it although they said it was not easy to see game and getting up at 4am was a hassle. They loved the champagne breakfast.
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