Balloon Safari questions

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Dec 1st, 2005, 04:23 PM
  #1
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Balloon Safari questions

We will be going on the Stanley Wing Safari with Micato in June and I have booked a Balloon safari thru them in the Masa Mara one morning. And, I have a few questions to ask anyone who has been on one of the hot air balloon rides!
First off, is it cramped in the balloon? I understand they take 12 people, well, those baskets just don't look as though they will take 12 people! Is it hard to get in and out of them, especially if one is carrying a few extra pounds? (that's me)
And, last, but not least, from when I leave the lodge at 4:30 AM, drive 1/2 hr to get to the sight, watch the hot air balloon being inflated, take a wonderful ride skimming over the trees, land, have a fabulous champagne breakfast - I am sure I will need to use a bathroom somewhere in there at least once???? Where does one do this, I couldn't be the only one who will need......????

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Dec 1st, 2005, 04:56 PM
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I did a hot air balloon through our lodge, i'm sure it will be similar. We were on a smaller balloon- 2 buckets, there were 4 adults, plenty of room. I think 12 in a large balloon would be tight- but maybe everyone won't show? The sun rises VERY quickly, so be ready. and dress warm- it is cold. I recommend a ski cap and knit gloves- they are small and don't weigh much and will come in handy at 5am.

Landing: there is a seat like bump in the basksets, you sit on that "bump" and when the balloon lands the basket tilts over so you esentailly are lying on your back, it doens't hurt- there was an elderly man on our ride and he was fine.
Bathroom- Good Luck- bring a jacket with you so that someone can hold it up while you squat. Unless the lodge has a port a pody that they keep in the truck. A truck will follow the balloon in case of emergency and then the guys in the truck set up the breakfast. Be prepared to "shop" after breakfast. Kids often come out and set up their goods and they will give you time to go over and browse. I personally found the women and kids out there LOVED to trade - yes, they want the US money, but Gum, Colored Pens, T-Shirts and Colored Baseball hats (and sneakers) will get you a lot.

One other fun thing I recommend you bring with you is pictures of home- while you are waiting for a pride of lions to wake up there is time to talk. Our guide had never seen snow- he asked me how we got out of the house when it snowed. I did have pictures of our home, and blizzards and different parts of the country and it was a great conversation.
Have a GREAT TIME!
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Dec 1st, 2005, 08:25 PM
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Lynda, I just opened my mail and received the brochure for the Micato Safaris. How funny. After looking through the whole book I was most attracted to the Stanley Wing Safari. I would rather go to Botswana, Cape Town and Victoria Falls but those trips are oh so expensive. Can you tell or have you checked on the properties they use. Are some hotel like and some luxury camp lodges. What made you pick this company and this trip.
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Dec 2nd, 2005, 07:23 PM
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Somerville 45 - Thankyou for the info - you gave me some great tips there - I will bring my gloves, a ski cap (a touque up here in Canada!), some pens, gum, pictures from home AND a long jacket or something. Maybe my long expedition style skirt would be good to wear, that would make a good 'tent' for sqauting! I couldn't be the only one with this problem though, could I?

Info for Spegelcjs -
My dream has been a safari, ever since I was a little girl. (long time ago - not only pre-computers, but pre-faxes, probably even pre-telex) I would day dream all day about being on a 'lion-hunt' (camera only of course) and seeing the animals in their natural habitat. I still dream all day about it.
So, when it came time to start thinking about one for real in 2001, I poured over many, many brochures, and Micato stood out. I have been in contact with one of the people at Micato in New York via e-mail since 2003, and believe me, both her and I were thrilled when it FINALLY became time to say 'book-it' in August this year.
Why did the company stand out? There was just something about it - yes the brochures (as others have said) are fabulous, and that did play a part - but not all. I am aware, as others have also said, that it is a pricey tour, and that you can get those same lodges from other operators for a cheaper price - but I have NEVER read a bad word about Micato, and cannot to seem to find any reason why NOT to book with them! I guess all in all I am a firm believer that most times you only get what you pay for. I like the fact that it is a family run business, both stateside and in Africa; the dinner at the Pintos does go a long way for me, and I like the mixture of the inter-Africa flights and driving. I like the idea also of someone from Micato(or even a couple of someone's) being with us all the way - I am a little too old to be too adventurous! I was attracted to the start-to-finish tour/safari full-board situation that Micato gives, knowing that they take care of us from getting off the plane in Nairobi to getting back on it at the end, including tours in Nairobi. I also liked the Zanzibar extension, we booked it too. The lodges they use look top-notch, I day dream about them all every day now! I guess all in all I like a trip with NO surprises and I know Micato will deliver it.
Why the Stanley Wing? Well, that was pure greed - it seemed to cover it all, and I have always liked to try and 'do-it-all' on a trip! It covers Kenya and Tanzania, and I am quite looking forward to Mt. Kenya Safari club, I can picture myself there! I have read a couple of bad reviews about it, but, you know what, we all see things differently, and for every bad review, I have read two good ones.
On the Stanley Wing we will stay at one of the tented camps, and that enthralled me too. I do realize it is not 'roughing it' and that's fine, as we have done our stint as a Boy Scout Leader and slept in enough 'real' tents. Time for us to try the luxury version! I have indeed checked all of the properties out that they use, and they ALL sound wonderful - it you would like me to give you some info on them, or anything else, please feel free to email me, can't remember if it's my profile, but if not - it's [email protected]
Hope this answers the question - sorry if I seemed to have got a little too detailed about it!
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Dec 3rd, 2005, 06:59 AM
  #5
bat
 
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Hi Lynda:

I thought that was a very nice description of why a Micato safari can be the right choice for someone. This will be a good thread to give to people inquiring about Micato on this board. Please post when you return for the same reason.
In fact, someone inquired about Micato recently and I will post your thread there.

Glad that your lifetime dream is becoming a reality!

P.S. thanks for asking the balloon question--I have been concerned about the long game drives as well--I am planning on using a long travel skirt.
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Dec 3rd, 2005, 07:34 AM
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MPJ
 
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Hi Lynda - So glad to hear you booked the Stanley Wing - as did we. We are going end of July. Was a bit put off by the response to my initial request re Micato and have remained quiet on this board but read it regularly. I hope there is space for those of us to choose to travel in this way and still have questions/concerns as plans get made. I love your questions, Lynda - exactly what I worry about! Are you traveling with children? Happy planning!
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Dec 3rd, 2005, 12:14 PM
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Before heading to the balloon you will probably meet the outfitter at a lodge for a briefing and coffee. This is your last chance for a pit stop.

When you get to the balloon chances are good that you'll be flying within a half hour. Where the balloon comes to rest after the journey there is a chance that you could find a small bush...
if they serve the breakfast out there, chances are good that a porta potty will be at the sight, if not then you'll need to hang on for 1/2 drive back to the lodge.

Take a peak cap too....if you find yourself close to the flame your pip will get a degree or three warmer than hot, the cap will help keep your nose from getting a gaseous sunburn and deflect soem of the heat from your dome!

What a trip, you'll love it I am sure. & yes up to 16 in tyhe basket depending on the outfitter: Tthe backet is particioned so you'll not be cramped.
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Dec 3rd, 2005, 12:26 PM
  #8
sandi
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Below link (I hope I extracted this correctly) is a photo of the 12/person balloon basket. We've never done the balloon safari on any of our many safaris... never interested. This and a few other balloon photos were sent to my having been taken by a honeymoon couple we met in Zanzibar.

http://www.kodakgallery.com/PhotoVie...=191063184205&

If you have a problem with the link, let me know and I'll try to correct it.
 
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Dec 3rd, 2005, 04:42 PM
  #9
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Thanks to all for your great responses!

Sandi- The link didn't work, can you repost it, I'd love to see that basket! Thanks for doing this, was the couple in the Mara or in the Serengeti? HAve you been to Africa on safari lots?

mkhonzo- thanks for the great info - good to hear that if I can find a small bush, I can do the pit stop after. That's probably when I will be pretty desparate, and bush or no bush, that long travel skirt may just have to do the job! Both my husband and I are a walking advertisement for Tilley (adventure clothing made here in Canada, but known the world over) so we will have those world famous Tilley hats with us - hopefully this will keep the heat away from us! Up to 16 in the basket, wow... Have you been on the balloon ride before?

Bat and MPJ - Thanks so much for the nice comments. Bat are you going soon, and who are you going with? I will indeed post a review when I get back, I am known for my LONG reviews and comments on other boards.... MPJ, we are traveling just by ourselves, our only 'young-un' is 27 now, and he's a pilot so the odds of finding him in any one given place long enough to take him on a three week trip is pretty slim! I wish we could though, I know he'd love Africa. I tried to convince him to apply to Air Kenya, that way I figured I'd know the pilot! He's green with envy though on the hot air balloon, he's never been in one.
Glad to see you are still reading the posts, please take note of my email in my post above, we could do some pretty good research together! I've actually just finished a complete notebook (hand written) on everything we will do or see on the trip, so if there is anything you need to know, let me know! Well, actually it's two notebooks, I really do write a lot... Did you take the Zanzibar extension or the optional balloon ride?
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Dec 3rd, 2005, 07:48 PM
  #10
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Hi Lynda:
Don't worry about a long report--you write beautifully and very descriptively--which is what readers need.

We are 60 days and counting! We booked with ATR--a UK travel agency. Knowing what I now know I would have booked with a U.S. based company--I know that many posters prefer booking directly with an African company--all for very persuasive reasons. But we all need our own comfort level.

Lynda, and MPJ--don't take this wrong about Micato--but my sweetie wanted to give me a trip to Africa a few years back and consulted our long term travel agent who uses Micato--he could not afford a Micato trip, and so that was the end of it. We are going next year because since then I learned that you can go for less money. MPJ, I agree with you wholeheartedly that there should be room for all Africaphiles to ask questions--whatever your path to Africa takes. So glad that you and your family are going. And I do hope that you and Lynda will report so that all perspectives are represented.
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Dec 4th, 2005, 03:42 AM
  #11
sandi
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Lynda -

Below the below link is correct.
There are a few photos - basket close-up, from a distance, balloon landing, animals seen below you.
These photos has been taken during their Serengeti honeymoon safari (we met them in Zanzibar). And, yes - been on lots of safaris, mostly East Africa, but to Southern Africa - SA, Zim, Bots; and lest we forget Egypt.

Again, these were extracted from our recent June '05 safari in Tanzania, Zambia and Kenya. If you want to see the rest... it's a big one with 600+ photos. Let me know, and I'll repost that link for you.

Enjoy!

http://www.kodakgallery.com/BrowsePh...&photo_count=5


 
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Dec 4th, 2005, 07:19 AM
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Yes, I did the balloon trip two years ago. no I didn't have a hat and yes tanned my hooter!

Now I too am thye proud owner of a Tilly hat! That should work better than a peak.

Quite honestly the most striking thing for me about the balloon experience was the silence. What was even more striking was the rich and clear calls of the biirds from way down below. i found those to be the most memorable, even better than the pride of lions and hippo pods in the rivers!
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Dec 4th, 2005, 02:22 PM
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Sandi- I have to be doing something wrong - I copied the link you gave me (from the toolbar copy) and then pasted into the address bar - the link says "Album not found". I did register for membership so I know it's not that - but am I doing something else wrong?
Completely on another topic, I was reading your response to the person who wanted to go just 'carry on' internationally and we had a question for you on the inter-Africa flight restrictions. We aren't planning on going only carry-on, as a matter of fact we are planning to do what you suggested to that person - we are packing the safari duffle bag that Micato will send us for the trip into a 22" roll-aboard along with some fresh clothes for Zanzibar (3 days) and London (2 days). We will take the safari duffle bag only on the safari and leave the roll-aboard in the hotel in Nairobi with the Zanzibar & London clothes. But, couple of questions -
Does the 33 lb cover the safari bag AND the camera bag that you mentioned we can 'carry-on' to the plane? Jim's (my husband) carry on is the camera bag, which in itself weights 11 lbs. My carry on will be our medications and a book or a magazine. And, if we are over the 33 lbs each, how much does it cost for the excess?
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Dec 4th, 2005, 02:39 PM
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Sandi, same problem: "album not found". Jack
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Dec 5th, 2005, 09:46 AM
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sandi
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Lynda -

Send an email to:

[email protected]

mark in subject line: Balloon Photos

and I'll send the link that you can simply click on, which worked when I tested it. Don't know what went wrong with cut/paste. No matter, just email me directly.

Jack - I sent the link to you.
 
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Dec 5th, 2005, 02:46 PM
  #16
 
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Lynda,
I am leaving for the Stanley Wing Safari on Dec 17! Just two weeks away! I too am doing the Balloon ride! I am very excited about it as well. I think it will be well worth the money.

Sandi- I am going to e-mail you as I would love to see the photo as well!

Thanks
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Dec 5th, 2005, 07:56 PM
  #17
bat
 
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Rosie:
Would you file a report when you return? It would be helpful for posters who would like some firsthand reports about Micato--and I bet that Lynda and MPJ wouldn't mind a little anticipatory excitement.
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Dec 5th, 2005, 08:19 PM
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Haha- will do! I cant say I'm not a bit nervous about that, as people on this board tend not to like Micato, but I definitely will jot down some notes while on the trip so that I can post a trip report when I return! I believe that I am a bit younger than perhaps the average age of the people here, so my perspective may be a bit different than the norm. But, I will now consciously take some notes and try remember certain things so that I can report accurately when i get back.

Also, is there anything specifically that perhaps Lynda or MPJ may want me to pay specific attention to?

Thanks!

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Dec 6th, 2005, 04:06 AM
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I won a balloon safari for only £50 at a charity auction in Kenya last year and our balloon had one of the larger baskets - the basket was divided into 4 compartments and each could comfortably take 3. 4 in each would be a squeeze so perhaps the 12 person baskets are even bigger or just crowded!

We had an unusually soft landing - sometimes there can be a bump, so I understand, depending on wind speeds. They didn't tip the basket over initially and I managed to clamber out though not very elegantly though on the other balloon trip the day before they did tip the basket over to allow easier exit for the customers, some of whom had mobility problems.

Would echo what has been said about a hat and even cover for your arms - I thought some of my arm hairs were going to get singed when our pilot burned the fuel now and then! A hat that can tie on might be better incase of stronger winds.

Have fun!
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Dec 6th, 2005, 05:29 AM
  #20
bat
 
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Hey RosieGee --Don't be nervous about a trip report. It is true that there are strong opinions expressed when someone asks SHOULD I book Micato--but I have never seen anyone be anything other than grateful for trip reports.
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