Kenya Trip Report Part 12 – Masai Mara Game Drives and Balloon Ride

Our chariot inflates

I’ll have a full review of our camp and Masai Mara in general in the next segment, but I wanted to highlight our game drives and our add-on balloon ride as there are just so many great pictures to share.

Our first game drive was on the afternoon we arrived. We saw wildebeast, a cheetah, antelopes, elephants, a jackal, lion, giraffes and lots of other wildlife relatively close to our camp.

On our return to camp, we were given a briefing by the balloon company on how our excursion would operate the next morning. We had a 4:30am wake up call from the camp’s Masai warrior security guard and coffee at the reception area before our vehicle arrived at 5am to take us to the balloon launching site. The balloon left from another camp about 30 minutes away. On the way there, we drove through the local village and saw some hyenas on the road.

At the other camp, there was more tea and coffee available and we waited to be led out to the field where the balloon was inflating.

We were given a quick safety briefing by the pilot, an Aussie, and got into the basket. There were three slots on each side of the pilot with room for four people in each slot. We were on the outside with great views all around.

Unfortunately, the wind didn’t cooperate much and we tried to find some at different altitudes. The sunrise was pretty and the ride itself was really smooth and enjoyable. My older daughter didn’t really enjoy it and mostly stayed down in the basket.

We landed inside Masai Mara reserve and were met by a truck (to transport the balloon back to camp) and several vehicles to drive us to breakfast.

Packing up the balloon and basket for transport

Breakfast was in a large field within the reserve. There was a full hot and cold buffet, coffee, tea and a bar with bloody mary, mimosa, and gin and tonic available. We enjoyed a relaxing breakfast and chatted with some of our fellow riders and the pilot, who had retired to Luxembourg, but was back visiting Kenya for a few months and picking up some balloon driving shifts while he was there.

We were driven back to camp and took a nap. Later that afternoon, we visited a Masai village and had a similar demonstration as our earlier one in Samburu: dances and songs from the tribe, a visit to a hut, a fire-making demonstration and a chance to shop at their market made just for us.

On the way back to our camp, we went on another game drive with Kehara. This time we saw more lions enjoying a kill and lots of other interesting wildlife.

The next morning we were scheduled to do an early walk with a Masai warrior and then a half-day game drive, but my younger daughter wasn’t feeling great so we decided to postpone those activities. Instead, we did two shorter game drives that day and finally completed our big five checklist when we saw a leopard up close and personal.

Relaxing under a truck

On our last day in Masai Mara, we went on an early walk with the Masai warrior, although my wife and younger daughter ended up cutting it short. My older daughter and I completed the walk (about 4 miles) and learned quite a bit about the flora and fauna of the area, along with some more information about tribal life.

After breakfast, we left on a longer game drive to the Mara River so that we could see hippos and crocodiles. On the way, we stopped at a viewpoint.

The crocs and hippos were not hard to find when we got to the river.

On the way back, we saw a bunch of lion cubs with their mothers.

I’m glad we saved Masai Mara for the last place we visited on the safari as it certainly had the most variety of wildlife. We enjoyed all of our game drives and the balloon ride (well most of us) immensely.

Up Next: Masai Mara and Tipilikwani Camp

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