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For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni
For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni 

Things to do in Kenya

Glide over the Maasai Mara on a sunrise balloon safari

Fly above the Mara River at sunrise spotting crocodiles, hippos and elephants below – it’s a life-changing experience…

By Sanjay Gupta
Governors' hot air balloon pilot

Governors balloon safari

Take to the skies on the Governors’ hot air balloon safari, where you’ll watch the sunrise over the Maasai Mara and get an aerial view of African wildlife. We lift off around 6am in time to see the sunrise from the balloon, painting the sky in buttery shades of orange. At that time of day, the grazing animals are just waking up, the elephants are munching in the forest, hippos are heading back to the river and the trees are filled with birds. It’s particularly busy during the Great Migration, when massive herds of wildebeest roam the plains.

Governors’ has the best flight path in the region. We fly along the Mara River above beautiful riverine forest, which is where the rhinos hang out, ending up in the open savannah where you might see giraffes, zebras and lions – today we saw a pride of around 13 lions. As we float over the water, you’ll usually spot crocodiles, hippos and elephants below. I’ve been lucky to see the entire Big Five from the balloon multiple times and have even watched a leopard taking down a topi and a giraffe giving birth.

We mostly fly at treetop level to get close to the wildlife; I’ll also swoop down to the river and let the basket skim the water. Passengers are gobsmacked by how low we can fly, it offers a completely unique perspective as you’re seeing the forest from above and brushing the treetops. The balloon safari is fantastic for photography, we’ve had National Geographic and the BBC fly with us to document the Great Migration. Guests love the serenity of the balloon ride and many tell me it’s a life-changing experience.

During the flight, you’ll also get the chance to drop seedballs from the balloon in an effort to replant indigenous African olive trees. This is just one of our conservation schemes, we also work with the Raptor Foundation to monitor bird activity and for every passenger we fly, $50 goes straight back into the conservancy to help protect the Mara. At the end of the hour-long flight, we land near one of our bush breakfast spots, where tables are set up under trees in the middle of the savannah.

Sip champagne and enjoy a lavish breakfast spread including eggs and sausages, pancakes, fruit and muesli. It’s a laid-back, picnic-style feast with lots of tea, coffee and all the champagne you can drink. As pilots, we sit with the guests, tell them stories and explain the history of ballooning in the Mara. My favourite part of the job is interacting with passengers and I’ve made some great friends over the years. In fact, I met my wife on a balloon safari in 2013 and we got married two years ago! I’m retired from my corporate life and now fly balloons for the sheer joy of it – every day I wake up with a smile.

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  • Trips to take
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Alfred & Sanjay Gupta

Sanjay Gupta grew up in New Delhi and was introduced to  ballooning by his uncle Vishwa, who piloted the first hot air balloon over India in 1974. Ever since, Sanjay dreamed of flying over the plains of Africa. After a long corporate career, Sanjay got his balloon licence and has flown all over the world, from Australia to Lapland and the Swiss Alps. He now works as a pilot for Governors’ in the Maasai Mara, which he believes is the best job in the world.
Sanjay Gupta, Governors' hot air balloon pilot

Alfred&

Your journey will start with one of our UK team – someone like Annette, who's travelled extensively in Kenya. They’ll shape your ideas into the trip of a lifetime. But they won't do it alone. They'll draw on the expertise of our contacts on the ground, connecting you to the people who'll make your holiday one you'll always remember - the rangers who'll ensure you'll spot the best wildlife in the Mara, the village chiefs who'll give you a genuine insight into local life and the camp managers who can recommend the very best spot for your sundowner.

Freephone an expert 01306 744 656