About Hot Air Balloon Safari – The African Dawn.
There is nothing quite like it. The absolute peace of immense vistas, muted colours and crisp fresh air coupled with the ever present promise of something wild as the balloon floats you silently above it all like a dream come true.
The balloon lifts off at dawn (0615) after coffee and flight briefing. The one hour flight will give you a birds eye view of the best East Africa has to offer, in the magnificent setting of the Great Rift Valley. Then as soon as you land, a champagne breakfast in the bush awaits you.
Early morning is the ideal time to see wild animals on the plains especially in Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya. This is absolutely an experience you will never forget.
About the Balloons
They stand 10-storey tall and are made by Cameron Balloons of Bristol, England. The balloons last about 400 flying hours in the fierce African sun, which means they must be replaced every 2 years.
They are twice the size of Double Eagle II, the balloon the Americans used to successfully cross the Atlantic in August 1978.
The largest of the balloons, the Cameron A315, stands as high as a ten-storey building, measures 100 feet across at its circumference and has a volume of 315,000 cubic feet ( 9000 cubic metres). The A315 is among the largest operational balloons in the world. At sea level, it has a lift capability of over two tons ( 2000kgs), although in Africa they carry only a maximum of 12 passengers and the pilot.
The balloon ‘envelope’ is made of a nylon based fabric superior to that of a spinnaker sail. The basket is made of woven cane and willow by expert craftsmen in the Royal Workshops for the Blind in Bristol. The design has not been surpassed in over a hundred years of balloon flight as there are few other materials that combine strength with resilience for so little weight.
Flight Control – one of the safest forms of flight
The balloon’s lift comes from hot air which is slightly lighter than the surrounding cold atmosphere. The hotter the balloon the faster it rises. As the balloon cools it slowly descends. The pilot can control the balloon to brush the grass or the tops of trees, yet could if he wished, go as high as 15,000 feet. However, the flying in the Mara is kept more down to earth.
The balloons are not flown in winds greater than 15 mph ( 30kph) so the calm African mornings are the perfect time for our flights. The balloons must go where the winds take them but, as winds at varying heights often have varying directions, the pilot can choose his height and hence his direction.
The balloon is “powered” by ordinary cooking gas to heat the air in the envelope.
The fuel system is duplicated in every respect to prevent failure of the burner. If all power should be lost however,( something which has, in fact, never happened) the balloon would enter a stable cold descent with the envelope acting as a parachute. This feature of the balloon makes it one of the safest forms of flight.
To pilot a balloon, it is necessary to gain a pilots licence exactly as with other forms of aircraft. There is a set number of hours of instruction and the same theoretical exams to pass as any fixed wing pilot. Also like their fixed wing counterparts, balloon pilots keep logs books, carry out pre-flight checks and monitor the weather conditions for safe flying. In addition, the Balloon pilots have undergone extensive professional training and have international experience.