Hot air in an envelope.
The oldest form of airborne transport on earth.
When you build a craft that is lighter than air, equip it with a bag which you call an envelope which you then fill with heated air and underneath which you hang a gondola or wicker basket… you have created what is known as a hot air balloon. It flies because it has a lower density than the air outside the envelope.
The French might have been first but it was Brazilian inventor Alberto Santos-Dumont who contributed significantly to the development of lighter-than-air aircraft. As heir to a coffee empire, Santo-Dumont could afford to dedicate himself to aeronautical study and experimentation in Paris. He started to design, build and fly hot air balloons and early dirigibles early in his career and succeeded in winning the Deutsch de la Meurthe prize for a flight around the Eiffel Tower.
Santos-Dumont was convinced that aviation must usher in an era of worldwide peace and prosperity and so he published his designs without patents.
In Brazil, it is believed that Santos-Dumont beat the Wright brothers to demonstrating practical flight in a heavier-than-air craft. After he committed suicide (depressed by his multiple sclerosis and the failure of aircraft to incite peace on earth) his heart was preserved in a golden globe at Brazil’s National Air and Space Museum.
(Before his death, he was instrumental in orchestrating the first woman to pilot a powered aircraft as his long-suffering (and one-sided) affection for a married Cuban-American lady called Aida de Acosta led to him allowing her to fly his No.9 airship.)
Santos-Dumont, the flying poet, also uttered the best description of a balloon flight:
“The balloon seems to stand still in the air while the earth flies past underneath”
And we think when the earth below you is filled with wild animals the experience becomes utterly magical.
Welcome on board a hot air balloon over the Masai Mara.
The Governors’ are in the pioneering business.
They started luxury tented African Safaris over 4 decades ago, introduced the flying safari and in 1978 they introduced Hot Air Balloon Safaris to the Masai Mara. Forty years is a long time to be flying the same route… but then the Mara River has new miracles to offer every day. And the sheer size of the Mara lends itself magnificently to a ballooning Safari.
And they started the way they meant to continue.
With world-class balloon pilots, staff and equipment. This has resulted in, not only a perfect safety record but the company has also followed in the footsteps of the earliest pioneers by developing the commercial balloon from an 8 man vessel to the magnificent 16 man balloons now ‘standing still’ over areas of the Mara where vehicles cannot reach.
Governor’s Balloons have been piloted by men like famous photographer Yann Arthrus Betrand and Robin Batchelor (who taught Branson to fly and piloted a balloon in a James Bond film). And continues to be flown by extraordinary pilots…
Passengers have included royalty, global superstars and balloons have taken off with two people who returned to earth betrothed on many an occasion. The balloons have also hosted marriage ceremonies.
As we do with all the properties we use for our guests, Governors’ also had to pass stringent conservation and community consciousness tests. In fact, the mere presence of the balloons has discouraged poachers and increased rhino numbers in the area and you can read more about their good side here.
About a Balloon Safari
Just before dawn guests enjoy a briefing by the light of the balloon burner fires while the envelopes rise like phantoms with the dawn.
Modern travelers expect sound with flight… and part of the magic of a balloon journey is the absence of engine noise. Instead, it is only the wind and the fire you hear… elemental sounds that sets the experience apart and brings you that bit closer to a sense of flight. You want to enjoy the sheer pleasure of floating for a moment as it will be eclipsed very quickly by the creatures you will spy in the plains, forest, and rivers below you. Tilting your camera down gives you an utterly unique point of view of all that you survey during your hour in the sky. The prevailing wind generally carries the balloon over the riverine forest and along the Mara River before heading out across the Eluai Plains and towards the Olololoo Escarpment. From above you will spy animal tracts, have the eagle’s view of the eagle’s nest, watch hippo and crocodiles swim and observe the daily commute of the plains game from on high.
The Governors’ team also knows how to let you down gently. Physically and metaphorically as it is difficult to be too sad about the moment having passed when a fabulous champagne breakfast is cooked wherever you land!
And then finally there is still the game drive back to camp… through some of the best game and bird-viewing country anywhere in Africa. Between July and October, the Masai Mara may teem with millions of wildebeest.
Do’s and Don’ts
Do – book in advance.
Do – bring a jacket or sweater that you can remove once the day heats up.
Do – bring a hat as the heat will be coming from the burners.
Do – wear long trousers and long sleeves in natural fibres.
Do – wear practical shoes
Don’t – forget a small backpack with a camera and binoculars.
Do – make sure you can bend at the knee, climb into and out of the basket and hold onto the rope handles with both hands for take-off and landing.
Who can’t fly
Young children (you have to be older than 8 and taller than 4 ft (1.2 m) tall)
People with mobility or health conditions including heart problems, brittle bones, neck or back problems.
A Balloon load is calculated at an average of 176 lbs (80 kg) per person.