Balloon Safari questions

Dec 6th, 2005, 12:02 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 1,774
RosieGee- Wow! Thankyou for posting, I would LOVE to hear all about the trip when you get back, as I am sure MPJ would as well. And Bat you have hit it on the nailhead - although all may not agree on the provider the important thing is the information on the safari itself - I am sure everyone would love to read it! And to find someone doing not only the same safari, but the balloon ride, today must be be my lucky day. For specifics, I would be forever in your debt if you can take note of the proceedure for the balloon ride, as mentioned in this post various companies have different size baskets, and variuos proceedures - and if you could specifically ask (or tell if you need also) about the 'oh oh need a bathroom' situation (by bathroom I mean even a bush will do)either as the balloon is inflating or just after the balloon ride - I'd appreciate this!
In general though if you could let us know how Micato was, ie were the guide/driver's always with you, how many on this particular safari, quality of food and lodges, that would be great! And, if you could let us know the particulars about how hard (or easy) it was to pack 33lbs in the bag they will give us, as well as some hints on that, I'd be forever grateful! I would MPJ would be appreciate on any pointers of travelling with a family as she (or he?) will be travelling as a family in July.
Sandi - Thanks so much for your email, I will check the link out as soon as I finish some work this afternoon that I must get done - and thanks for the info on the luggage - that helped a great deal! Your web site is incredible, I printed it out to read over coffee tonight - can't wait to read it!
Kavey-I hope the baskets are bigger rather than just crowded, I have a few more pounds on me than some so I do worry about taking up too much room when there are others to consider! You mentioned mobility problems, I never even thought to ask about this before, but my husband does need a cane for long walks and long 'stands' - is there a seat in there that he can sit for a bit if it gets too much over the hour for him? Or could the cane come with him in the basket?

LyndaS is offline  
Dec 6th, 2005, 12:36 PM
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Lynda -

No doubt some of the best information re travel to Africa, safari in particular, comes from this Fodor's board. However, a number of these questions should be answered by Micato. They have clients doing these balloon activities daily and specifics should be readily available to you.

As to any physical limitations - cane, uneven ground, stairs, etc... hope you have made Micato aware of this/these. There are plenty of lodges/camps that can accommodate limitations - room on ground floor, close to dining area, etc.

Safaris are done for those with both physical and mental handicaps, even those in wheelchairs - ask.

Honestly, I can't personally comment on the hot air balloon details (haven't done it myself), especially whether there is room in the basket for a stool on which to sit, but maybe one of those canes that open with a seat may serve double-service if there is room.

Let us know what Micato says.
Dec 6th, 2005, 12:53 PM
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 2,138
I went on Micato's Grand Safari last year (June) and the balloon ride was included.

I'm sorry now that I did not include a trip report. It was still dark when we set out for the balloon ride, and we were driven over to Govenors camp and met up with other people who would be riding (not sure if they were all staying at Govenors). There was a tented (rather nice) flush toilet that you could use at this point.

I don't remember a seating area, but I think if you had to, you could sit in the van whilst waiting for the balloon to inflate. I think they also had coffee/tea/etc here, but I didn't have any so I could cut reduce bathroom stops.

When it was time, we were told to gather round, and the pilot decided who would go with which (there were 2) balloon.

Then our pilot decided who would get into which part of the basket.I felt very comfortable with our pilot, and her firm, no-nonsense approach.

Each basket was divided into quadrants, and while I no longer remember how many people there were total, it seemed we were distributed according to weight, and there was quite a range of sizes. I also remember it being quite a squeeze with barely any room to turn round.

There were lots of guys (workers) on hand to help you get into the basket, I have rather long legs, so it wasn't really a problem.

During the flight the pilot points out areas of intrest and one nice thing was that she would rotate the basket so everyone got a turn riding at the front (the Pilot was in the center). I think the ride was about 45 minutes in all.

When the time came to land, the pilot was once again very firm in her instruction. There's a ledge to sit on inside the basket and straps to hold on to. We were warned against standing up at any time during the landing (they have had injuries and even deaths caused by people standing up to get a view of the goings-on).

The landing is a little bumpy, not all that scary as we had been well prepared. The basket tipped on its side, and we were able to roll out one-by-one. It was hardest on the first person out because he had the least room to maneouver.

We were then taken to a spot that had a loong table and little stools set up and breakfast was served. I can't remember if there was a toilet available here as I didn't need one, but it seems likely that there would be.

The groundstaff had set up a table with memorabilia for sale and a box for tips. I mention this because they were so appreciative for what little they got in the box. I had not expected to need any money, and so had not brought very much at all.

After breakfast, we went on for a game drive, and didn't get back to camp for about another couple of hours (i.e. breakfast is your last chance for a potty-break for a while)!

Let me know if I can answer any other questions you may have.

Femi is offline  
Dec 6th, 2005, 01:13 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,214
I have slight mobility problems - I have osteoarthritis in one hip and sometimes also use a walking stick but I was not suffering much at that time.

There is a seating ledge inside the basket BUT in our balloon sitting down on it during the ride = not being able to see out of the basket. It's a LOW ledge and is mostly used to sit down for landing.

I don't think he'll have trouble getting out but he'll need to stand up to enjoy the views.

Incidentally I'm a US size 20 and I had no problems but of course I don't know whether the baskets your company uses are the same or bigger than the one I was in.
Kavey is offline  
Dec 6th, 2005, 01:26 PM
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 1,790
Very descriptive, great detail.
bat is offline  
Dec 6th, 2005, 03:08 PM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 32
Three years ago I took a hot-air balloon ride over the Masai Mara. The basket had 4 compartments and the sides came almost up to my armpits (I'm 5 foot 2). There are footholds woven into the sides to facilitate climbing in and out. There is a bench (not a bump--at least in the basket we were in) in each compartment, woven right into the basket. At times I took off my shoes and stood on it to see better. While we were waiting for the balloon to be inflated, we ducked around behind the vehicle that took us there and "marked our territory." (It was dark yet.) That was the only time we needed to do that, as it was only a couple of hours total. There was no port-a-potty at the landing area and we didn't need one anyway. I'd advise limiting your liquids at breakfast. There were strong rope loops inside and we sat on the "benches" during landing and held on to the loops for stability. We kind of "bump, bump, bumped" through the grass as we landed, but it wasn't anything traumatic. By the way, just because it holds 12 doesn't mean there will be 12 going. Our wasn't THAT big but our group of 3 were the only passengers that morning. The pilot was from Syracuse, NY. He took one crew member along to provide a fourth passenger to balance the basket. He hadn't had any passengers all week and had lots of gas, so he took us for an hour and a half instead of the scheduled hour. By staying up longer we were able to see a pride of 22 lions.
retiredatlast is offline  
Dec 6th, 2005, 03:21 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,214
Oh... toilet facilities - there were some landrovers parked a wee distance from the breakfast table - we were told to go behind them. Of course, I was just about to be doing my business when I saw another vehicle appearing in the distance, nothing to do with our lot, pulled up my pants reeeeaaal fast and waited till they'd gone!
Kavey is offline  
Dec 6th, 2005, 08:58 PM
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 15
Ah, this was so informational!

Thank you all!

Sandi-your balloon photos were fantastic, and I skimmed through your photo album. I tend to be particularly fond of wildlife photos and I LOVED the lions and elephants the Zebra ones. Truly amazing.

I hope I get that kind of photography luck when I'm there. Question: what kind of camera do you have/ and what zoom? Also, how close were you to those animals?

RosieGee is offline  
Dec 7th, 2005, 01:39 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 391
One of my favourite photos is of a dawn morning over the Maasai Mara. There was a hot air baloon on the horizon, and I managed to catch it lit up by the burner.

So far two people have asked me "were you in that baloon?" Then they realise that if I'd taken the photo it was a very stupid question.

I've still not been able to do a baloon flight.

Maybe next time.
Pumbavu is offline  
Dec 7th, 2005, 01:39 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 391
One of my favourite photos is of a dawn morning over the Maasai Mara. There was a hot air baloon on the horizon, and I managed to catch it lit up by the burner.

So far two people have asked me "were you in that balloon?" Then they realise that if I'd taken the photo it was a very stupid question.

I've still not been able to do a balloon flight.

Maybe next time.
Pumbavu is offline  
Dec 7th, 2005, 01:40 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,214
Some pics at

to get access:
Kavey is offline  
Dec 7th, 2005, 04:28 AM
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Rosie -

Glad you enjoyed the photos.

My camera, first digital is a Fuji 5100 with 10X optical. Price was in my budget at $285 (from B&H). Plus the extras of a 256Kb chip, batteries, charger, service contract. Total about $400+. Bought additional 512Kb* chip from a discounter on the web; additional 2-sets of AA batteries (J&R) and carrying case from Best Buys.

*there are 1GB and even 2Gb chips available, but I prefer not to put all my eggs in one basket... so found that the 256 and 512 were more than sufficient. Also, should a 1Gb chip (any size for that matter) be damaged or become damaged, hate not to have a backup. But in our case, we were three people with a total of 5-cameras between us.

I went with the one that was easiest to learn (a no brainer - idiot-proof), fit my budget, had standard AA rechargeable batteries (other type batteries can run $100 ea. and you need a backup battery).

The 10X optical was most important for animal photos, though more often than not we were close enough, it was more a plus, just in case.

You will find a few other threads here re cameras, the Panasonic models get rave reviews and then there are those Digital SLRs. I would suggest you read through those threads... print them out and then make your decision once you're at the camera shop.
Dec 7th, 2005, 11:11 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 1,774
THANKYOU ALL for such wonderful, detailed replies to my questions - I do believe I now have taken all of my 'worries' away on this one! Not that I would have said no to going even when I had those worries, but now I can move on to thinking about other things!
Femi, Kavey, and retiredatlast those were fabulous detailed reports - just what I was looking for! And thankyou to Sandi and Kavey for the picture links; and Pumbavu, comeback and post the address for your picture if it's scanned in somewhere??
Rosie and bat, can't wait for you guys to get back and post....
LyndaS is offline  
Dec 7th, 2005, 11:50 AM
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 218
merrittm is offline  

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