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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

The Amboseli hot air balloon adventure

This is paradise for ballooning – you’ve got the sunrise, Mount Kilimanjaro and views of Amboseli’s diverse ecosystem…

By Barry McGonigle
Managing Director of Kilimanjaro Balloon Safaris

Enjoy aerial views of Mount Kilimanjaro and Amboseli National Park on this sunrise hot air balloon adventure. Kenya’s tagline is Magical Kenya and I don’t think you can appreciate that unless you go ballooning, especially in Amboseli. I call this paradise because I’ve never been anywhere like it in the world. Everyday there’s something different to see and when you’re in the balloon, you’re just one with mother nature – there’s no traffic or noise.

The whole experience lasts around five hours and starts with an early-morning pick up from your lodge. On the way to our launch site you get a nocturnal game drive which otherwise isn’t allowed in the national park. There’s a chance to spot porcupines, badgers and hippos coming out of the water – it’s an exciting way to start the day. While your pilot gives the safety briefing, you’ll notice the horizon start to glow and by the time the balloon is inflated, the sky is totally ablaze with colour. Guests can’t figure out what to photograph first, the sunrise, the balloon or Kilimanjaro.

Upon lift-off you get incredible 360-degree views over Amboseli’s diverse ecosystem which includes swamps, deserts and bushland. The beauty of taking a hot air balloon ride here is that Mount Kilimanjaro doesn’t migrate, unlike wildlife in the Maasai Mara. A lot of people don’t have the option of trekking up the mountain, so this is a great way to see Africa’s highest peak. If the conditions are right, we can go 5,000 feet above the clouds to see sunrise hit the mountain. I’ve been to a lot of ballooning destinations in my lifetime and I think this is the most iconic. We have the unique eco-system and ideal wind conditions because Kilimanjaro blocks bad weather.

Most of the time we fly just a few hundred feet off the ground for the best wildlife viewing. This area is rich with water so the animals never leave and you get sightings of everything from zebra and waterbuck to lions, jackals and over 600 species of birds. Amboseli is also home to over 2,000 elephants, so you’ll spot huge herds moving below. Recently, we saw 38 giraffes in one flight, which was a record. My favourite animal to show passengers though is the gerenuk, which walks on its back legs to grab leaves from the trees. A lot of people also like flying over the Maasai bomas and seeing how local people live.

When we land the balloon, our chase team are there to take you back to our base, looking out for animals on the way. The captain will lead a traditional champagne celebration and present guests with a signed flight certificate, then it’s time for breakfast. Guests can enjoy a spread of drinks, fruit and baked goods and our server will come around taking orders for hot meals. Dine on tables outside with lots of Kenyan coffee and views of Kilimanjaro. Don’t forget to try our chef’s famous mendazis – hot Kenyan donuts.

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Alfred & Barry McGonigle

Entrepreneur Barry McGonigle was making t-shirts for a hot air balloon festival in Canada when he took his first flight. Instantly hooked, he trained as a pilot and in 1995, bought Sundance Balloons, a company that he runs with his wife Judy. In 2017, Barry moved to Tanzania and launched Kilimanjaro Balloon Flights with the aim of sharing Amboseli’s unique beauty with visitors.
Barry McGonigle, Managing Director of Kilimanjaro Balloon Safaris

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