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Balloon Safari

Photos @CrystalMcClory

Continued from Safari, Sea and Swahili

Wed 3rd August


Soaring majestically over rolling grasslands, the best ballooning season is July to October, and with a 360-degree view, it’s absolutely worth it.

It’s a 4.50am meet. Overtired, our clothes as crumpled as our faces, we climb into a vehicle to the site. Bleary-eyed, seeing a heavy hippo standing on the dark road.

Eyes reflect in the jeep's headlights of two spotted hyenas.

In the dewy darkness under spectacular stars at Governors Balloon Safari, heady anticipation hangs in the air. There is a heavy breathing sound, as nerves kick in… of gas cylinders inflating the rainbow striped balloon.

A safety demo, then four of us climb into a sectioned corner of the heavy-duty basket. Wrapped in layers against the cool night, the heat of the flame heats the top of my head. The exhilarating sound of the fire blasting sounds like a dragon breathing. Flying is the most wonderful sensation. The gliding motion is effortlessly smooth, with the hiss of pilot lights.

Waterbucks chase off a stalking leopard, the rest of the herd alert and watching. Gliding above these glorious creatures is a whole new perspective. Below the balloon, we see a duiker, reedbuck, crocodile, hippos, elephants, giraffes, spotted hyenas, warthogs, vultures, marabou stork and zebra. Wildebeest run from the shushing noise above, while we enjoy the tranquillity and breeze.

An hour later, what goes up must come down. Back down to earth with a bump. The basket tips us, laughing onto our backs. Elated as the balloon is deflated. Wriggling out of the basket, mindful of potential snakes in the grass, we hop into a waiting vehicle.

A warm ‘Karibu’ welcome to beautifully laid tables as chefs cook breakfast under an acacia tree. We drink prosecco and excitedly chatter about one of the most incredible experiences. What a special day!

I can honestly say it’s one of the best journeys I’ve ever experienced. Nothing is more thrilling than silently drifting over animals and predators on early morning hunts—a definite one to add to any bucket-list itinerary.

In the distance, on the afternoon game drive, a cheetah and her four cubs shelter near the rocks. We pass a Wild Eye photo tour, jealously eyeing their big ones… telescopic camera lenses.

Lions sprawl lazily in the sun, contentedly sleeping, heavily breathing, ears twitching, ignoring the flies, and us gazing in admiration.

Shaken and stirred back at the hotel. Bottles on the windowsill of the bar glow invitingly, open windows and epic landscape behind. The perfect panorama to enjoy a Dana cocktail: vodka ice, mint, and honey - a local style mojito.

Thursday 4th August

Ending on a high

Another sunrise start, it’s quiet enough to hear the squeak of the grass of munching wildebeests and the screech of hyenas. An elephant paws the ground with her giant foot as a gentle warning, as the herd protects its baby crossing the road in front of us. A trunk gives the young calf a helping push, lifting it over a small ditch. Trunks grasp soil spraying backs for a dusty bath.

At the river, forty contented hippos lay sleeping like smooth boulders with pink ears in the water. The wildebeest will have to cross crocodile-infested waters. Over fifteen huge Nile crocs lie await in the water, in anticipation. A sign: ‘Do not alight from your car.’ I don’t need to be told twice. The scaly crocs make me cringe (the footwear does too).

At the Hippo Pool, a hippo exhales as it surfaces then collapses into the water. Huffing and puffing, and necking in the bubbling pond. A green parrot with red underwings swoops past as we leave.

A Serval cat slinks past on our drive back. A family of baboons runs in front of us. They don’t hide their modesty or leave much to the imagination. Cheeky monkeys.

Last sunny breakfast, overlooking the pool, full English and omelettes with fresh fruit and tropical juices on sunshine yellow crockery before heading to the airport.

At Mara Serena Airstrip, ground traffic control deal with a few zebras by shooing them off the runway with a jeep, while Pumbaa chomps on the grass. A brown widow spider and a bird’s nest with chicks nestle in the eaves of the airport ‘lounge’ as a lizard runs by.

Best. Airport. Ever.

We bid our excellent guide ‘Asante SanaThank you very much, and a fond farewell, sad to leave this magical place.

To be continued: click to read more: Beach please...

Photos @CrystalMcClory

Crystal’s Tips:

Get your vaccinations up to date!

You'll need an Evisa, and 6 months on your passport.

Pack light (15kg for light aircraft)

Borrow or buy a pair of Binoculars preferably each.

A good camera - I used a Nikon

Suntan lotion - especially important as it's on the equator.

Jungle Formula mosquito spray.

Malaria tablets.

A sports bra MAAREE

Warm clothes, light layers, a gilet or lightweight puffa from Marks & Spencer or Uniqlo

A lightweight scarf.

Fleece or jumper to keep you warm on sunrise starts.

A Chilly's bottle to keep drinks cool.

A hat.

Guide book with animals to tick off.

Travel money card - Revolut

There is little walking apart from to the buffet or the jeep but wear closed practical shoes. Hiking boots On-running are great or Adidas Terrex or trainers. Don’t forget your socks!

Call your mobile network provider to prearrange a data package. Or switch off your data roaming, watch the animals roaming and use wifi in the camps (it’s patchy at busy times) to truly switch off and be in the moment.

I take my own pillow, it protects items in your case, stops you from packing too much, and will guarantee a good night's sleep.

Have a massage on arrival as it will reset you for the holiday.

Written by Crystal McClory

Ask the team at Abbotts Travel to book your trip and for any help and advice.


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