To Baloon or not to Baloon... that is the question!

Old Jul 8th, 2006, 10:22 AM
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To Baloon or not to Baloon... that is the question!

Well, thanks to you all I'm down to my final few questions. I have very little time to second guess myself (12 days to go... yippee!!!), which is definately a good thing going on my past preformance ) Now the question is - do I book a baloon safari or not? I know this has been asked before but of course I have a slightly different angle on it...another as per usual...... Here's the thing, I'm scared of heights AND am claustrophobic!!!
I e-mailed Serena, as we would be doing the baloon ride at the Mara Serena, and they have told me that the baloons take a maximum of 12 people, does anyone know how crowded that is? Anyone got any pictures?
It really is something I would like to do and I think I will be able to cope with the heights thing if the claustrophobia is not an issue...... does anyone have any advice please?

Also, I just have to ask.... The last post I read about baloon safari was Rocco's and I know he agonised over doing it or not and he was very disappointed with the experience... opinions? anyone have a really good experience with balooning on Safari?

Thanks again everyone,
Imelda
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Old Jul 8th, 2006, 10:40 AM
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Oh yes, Imelda - I have a definite opinion! I'm sorry I am so far behind on my trip report, I really wanted it to be almost done before you went, I will still try!

But, to answer this question - <b>YES YES YES YES<b></b></b>
(omigosh that bolding really works - thanks Cyn!)

I am a bit claustrophobic (just getting used to the 15 floors of elevator I have to tackle twice daily) and I have a small thing about heights as well - I couldn't handle the glass floor in the Skytower in Auckland - I couldn't go near it or step on it!

But, I loved the balloon ride.

It was, without a doubt, a highlight of my trip (up their with the cheetah hug), and I would spend the money and go again in a flash. What Rocco said about not being high was true - but it was GOOD for me - I loved that! I didn't think I could have jumped out and not hurt myself (highest was a few hundred feet max) but, enough so that I figured if the balloon fell (I'm sure unlikely if not an impossibility though) out of the sky, we would be bruised but not hurt. Most of the time we skimmed the trees, at times I really didn't think the other balloon was going to make it over those trees! It was peaceful, it was amazing, it was breath taking and it was FUN! I truly did not want it to end, I really enjoyed it up there. We saw lots of animals (no cats though) and seeing the river (Mara?, not sure would have to look it up) with the crocs and hippos were a highlight.

Now for logistics. I learned, that all things are not equal in the ballooning game. What one set of ballooners do is not what others do. It may vary by company, or it may vary by pilot.

We ballooned out of Governor's Camp in the Mara. Yours, out of the Serena, may be different.

We had two baskets - the one we were in held 16, while the smaller one that went with us held 12 - both plus the pilot of course. 16 would have been a tight squeeze, but thank goodness 7 people didn't make it so we had plenty of room! Not sure why they didn't make it - Steve and Gary, our pilots, said they must have slept in or something - they were from Bateleur Camp. We waited 10 min for them, but, decided to go after 10 min as they didn't want us to miss the sunrise. With the people who were left, they had to put one of the workers in ours, along with the pilots wife, to even out the numbers, I'm not sure about the other basket. (we had 10 people in our group - we ended up to be 12 plus the pilot - three of us in each section, and that was plenty of room for us!

We were not weighed, but the pilot did tell us exactly which position to take in the basket. The basket wasn't laying down, it was upright - and as a plus-size person, yes, I had an anxious moment as I tried to get in the basket - but, the pilot very quickly motioned 2 guys over to help me and in I went easily once they helped me in!

Landing was more fun than I thought! We sat down, bracing ourselves as per the pilots instructions, we felt a bump, another few bumps and that was that. Not big bumps either - gentle bumps.

Getting out was NOT fun. Everyone else just kind of 'hopped' out, there I was trying my best when the pilot's wife noticed, and sent two guys over to help. With their help I got up and over the edge, but even at that I must say it wasn't that easy for me. But that's OK!

Breakfast was incredible - they cooked for the 7 that didn't make it as well - there was SO much food! Bacon, scrambled eggs, toast, sausages, hash browns, beans, muffins, croissaants, all the fixings, and of course coffee and tea. A better tasting breakfast was not to be found on this trip! We ate by the river, watching the hippos, that was fun!

I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

(PS, I will be 'lifting' most of this from this post and pasting into my report - didn't mean to get this carried away Imelda!)
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Old Jul 8th, 2006, 11:41 AM
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&quot;they have told me that the baloons take a maximum of 12 people, does anyone know how crowded that is? Anyone got any pictures?&quot;

Hi Imelda, we didn't ride the balloon but early one morn in the Serengeti we had one drift over us and took a couple of snaps so I put one up just for you ... looks like 8 guests plus the operator in this one, I think it was over $400 for about an hour's actual time in-air (our guide was incredulous at this, he said it was about $250 2 years ago) ... I think they go a bit higher than this but not much ... hope this helps ...

http://members.aol.com/bhilton665/te...loon_W1261.jpg

Bill
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Old Jul 8th, 2006, 12:33 PM
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Oh Lynda, It sounds fabuolus AND to be right up there with the cheetah hug... well that just says it all!!!
You poor thing trying to get in and out of the basket - at least the pilot and his wife were helpful.
I would be right with you on the 'don't step on the glass floor' issue and am pretty badly claustrophobic BUT if I can overcome this I really want to just try ballooning, even if I find that my experience isn't 'that great' I think it is one of those things I need to try once.
Do you think that, being claustrophobic, had the balloon been full, you would have coped? Did everyone have an 'edge' position? If so, is there much room behind you? - I'm just trying to gauge the size. Thanks Lynda and can't wait for the rest of your trip report, it has been keeping me going while I wait for Thursday week to arrive!

Bill, thank you SOOO much for posting the picture - and especially for me. I think I could definately cope with that height and even a bit higher. The price has actually gone up again since then - $425 per person now!

Thanks again
Imelda

PS - Sorry about the spelling in the original post - was too trigger happy and posted without previewing.
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Old Jul 8th, 2006, 01:00 PM
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Hi Imelda:

We did not do a balloon ride, BUT...I am the <font color="blue"><b>champion</b></font> balloon spotter of all time - put one of those babies up anywhere near me, and I'll be the very first one to spot it! (I may not do so well spotting <u>animals</u>, but those balloons? oooh baby!)

I uploaded some pics I took of those floating overhead - didn't look too crowded to me - but I'm not too claustrophobic.
http://www.kodakgallery.com/I.jsp?c=...&amp;y=-7j4knz

I think you should go for it! You never want to come home and say, gee... I wish I had....

<font color="green">Cyn</font>
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Old Jul 8th, 2006, 01:04 PM
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Am I correct that you can just charge the ride?
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Old Jul 8th, 2006, 01:17 PM
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Here is my contribution to the Masai Mara balloon picture parade!

http://www.go-safari.com/Masai%20Mara/LittleGov5.jpg

I don't think crowding is an issue.

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Old Jul 8th, 2006, 02:45 PM
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I've done the balloon rides in both the Mara and the Serengeti...don't miss it! I'm afraid of heights, but the balloon rides didn't bother me in the least. You're riding on the wind, so there is no wind in your face.

As to claustophobia, you're standing at the edge of the basket looking out. I didn't notice the other people in the basket unless I turned and looked at them. Everything in your field of view is open sky and space.
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Old Jul 8th, 2006, 03:08 PM
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Aaawww Guys, thank you so much for posting your photos... Looking at those overcrowding certainly doesn't seem to be an issue.
You have all convinced me to do it.... think I will surprise Hubby with it... a very early anniversary present . One last question - we will be in the Mara Serena for 4 nights, any suggestions as to which day we should pick to do it, I'm thinking maybe the second last day so that we have something to look forward to to maybe the last day before we fly back to Nairobi (our flight isn't until 11am)?

Imelda
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Old Jul 8th, 2006, 06:27 PM
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You couldn't do it on the last day - not enough time to partake in that wonderful breakfast, get back, pack and get to the airstrip. Probably the 2nd last day would be good!
Shay Tay is correct - unless you turned and looked at the people, you wouldn't even notice them - my eyes were glued to the landscape and animals! <font color="red"><b> DO IT FOR SURE IMELDA!<font color="red"><b></b></font></b></font>
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Old Jul 8th, 2006, 07:04 PM
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Oh definitely BALOON!!! Awesome experience........i think i did it out of Governor's camp area in the Mara. Great experience. Didnt feel claustrophobic. However, the only problem we had was, the wind conditions took us away from the migration. We still had a great time and saw a bit......

Hari
 
Old Jul 8th, 2006, 09:13 PM
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Imelda

take into account, that on some days, due to weather conditions, the pilot decides NOT to fly (i've seen it happen) &amp; fly the next morning.
just to be on the safe side, do it a day before...

aby
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Old Jul 8th, 2006, 09:20 PM
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PS

in many cases, the basket is not upright as Linda described, but lying on its side... easy to get it !

aby
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Old Jul 9th, 2006, 06:10 AM
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I'm doing it, I'm doing it!!!!..... And Hubby hasn't a clue!... I'm so excited I think I'm going to BURST!

I just booked it for the second day of our stay - just in case it has to be postponed we will still have the next day to do it (thanks for the tip Aby!). Now I just don't know how I'm going to be able to concentrate on work between now and then
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Old Jul 10th, 2006, 11:26 AM
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I know you've already made up your mind, but I'll echo the other sentiments posted here and say EXCELLENT decision. You won't regret it. I've been to the Mara twice and ballooned both times and would do it again. Last September, about three minutes before we were to land, we flew right over a mother black rhino and calf! Quite a rare thing to see and unbelievably cool to see from 25 feet off the ground!

Have a GREAT time! Enjoy a mimosa on the Mara Plains for us!
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Old Jul 10th, 2006, 01:04 PM
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CheetahGirl, that's definately a good sign - having done TWO flights! It must have been a wonderful experience seeing the Rhino and her baby, hopefully we will get some nice views and I will certainly have a Mimosa for you and a toast to all the fodorites for convincing me to do it and helping make my trip special.

Imelda
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Old Jul 10th, 2006, 01:47 PM
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Hey Imelda --

I don't know if it's too late, but I hope you booked your balloon safari earlier in your stay. I think someone mentioned it, but occasionally the winds aren't favorable and they have to cancel a flight. It's good to have an extra day or two to be able reschdule on the off-chance that happens.

SSM
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Old Jul 10th, 2006, 01:53 PM
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Hi CheetahGirl,
We booked for the second day of a 4 night (5 day) stay, just in case. I actually wouldn't have thought of taking a flight cancellation into consideration but Aby mentioned it. Thanks for letting me know too.
Imelda
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Old Jul 10th, 2006, 02:30 PM
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Cool. I've only just found this forum today, but based on what I've read alrady, I think I can speak for others and say we expect a full report when you return. Have FUN!!!!!!
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Old Jul 10th, 2006, 05:19 PM
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Currently one of my knees is a huge challenge to me. I have a balloon ride booked, but am afraid I won't be able to do it. How &quot;bumpy&quot; and awkward is the take off? How about the landing? Lynda, you indicated a problem getting out. Do you have to actually climb over the wall of the basket to get out? How high is it?
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