GREAT RIFT BY BALLOON
|The Great Rift Valley is one of the most awe-inspiring sights on earth, but the best way to see the rift is from above, and a new balloon safari operation will literally give you a birds eye view of the valley as you join flocks of flamingo soaring high across lakes, volcanoes and forest.|
Kenya’s wide open spaces and ‘big sky’ country make this fantastic ballooning country, but until now balloon safaris have been limited to the plains of Maasai Mara.
With Go Ballooning Kenya , the geographic wonders of the Great Rift valley offer a spectacular new alternative.
Born of a major shift beneath the Earths surface over 35 million years ago, the massive Rift valley is one of natural wonders of the world, easily visible from outer space. The valley stretches 6000 kms from Jordan to Mozambique, with its width varying from between 30 to 100 kms.
The valley is at its most spectacular in Kenya, its floor studded with dormant volcanoes and fresh water and soda lakes, attracting a wide range of big game and bird life.
When exploring the rift, it is difficult to gain a clear perspective of the scale and sheer size of the valley, which is where a balloon comes in handy. Rising from the floor, you can appreciate the entire Rift, both its vast entirety and the many natural elements and ecosystems that bring the valley to life.
The ballooning operation is based in Soysambu, on the historic Delamere Estate. Steeped in colonial history, this 200 sq. km farm combines a working cattle ranch with a game sanctuary that is home to large herds of zebra, giraffe, buffalo, eland, gazelle and more.
The launch site is within easy reach of safari lodges and hotels in the Naivasha and Nakuru region, making this an ideal morning excursion for anyone spending the night in this area.
The 8 man balloon, captained by experienced pilot Othmar, launches at dawn, rising with the sun over the sprawling plains of Delamere before skimming low across the shores of Lake Elmenteita.
A shallow soda lake, Elmenteita is one of the main ports of call for the Rift’s famed flamingo flocks, drawn to the nutrient rich waters.
The flamingos create an expansive carpet of pink across the surface of the lake, and a silent gliding balloon is the perfect way to see them up close.
As the flocks take wing beneath the basket, it feels as though the balloon has joined the birds in flight as they cross the broad waters of the lake.
Anyone familiar with the 1985 film version of Out of Africa will be immediately reminded of the classic shot of a biplane soaring across flocks of flying flamingo.
Unlike a plane however, the balloon provides an unobtrusive opportunity to see these birds at close quarters and the steady smooth progress across the lakeshore is ideal for photography.
Leaving the lake, the balloon makes a low level traverse of the riparian forests around Elmenteita, giving passengers a treetop view of giraffes nibbling leaves, gazelles grazing grass and elands and impala following well established game trails through the undergrowth.
Following this airborne game drive, the balloon makes a breathtaking ascent skyward, up to 3,500 metres.
From this altitude, the true magnitude of the Rift is revealed in its long winding lava flows, deep volcanic craters and jagged peaks. Cloud allowing, there may well also be views of both Mt. Kenya and Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa’s two highest peaks in a single, awe inspiring view.
Descending again, the hour-long safari ends with a landing on the plains between Elmenteita and Nakuru. The exact position and pace of the landing is determined by the wind, and a sometimes bouncy return to earth is often made under the curious gaze of herds of plains game.
By the time you have landed, a full champagne breakfast is waiting, laid out in the shade of yellow acacia trees.
For anyone on safari in the Naivasha or Nakuru area, this a an excellent excursion, with an easy pick up available from your lodge. The only difficult part of this adventure is dragging yourself out of bed in the dark to make your dawn departure- but the pay off is definitely worth it.
Getting up early is a small price to pay for a chance to see the sun rise as it has for millions of years over one of the planets most unforgettable landscapes- the Great Rift Valley at its greatest.
Would you like to try it out? Click here for more information.