By Prudence Minayo
Hot air balloons are one of man’s most amazing inventions. To get the hot air balloon experience in Kenya most people have to visit places like the Maasai Mara. Here, one can get an exhilarating ride in the balloon and have a panoramic view of mother nature.
However, very few people in Kenya can afford to become hot air balloon pilots. There is no institution in Kenya or even Africa that trains these pilots. One has to travel outside the continent to train how to fly the hot air balloon.
Joyce Wairimu Beckwith
Captain Joyce Wairimu Beckwith is a fun loving Kenyan woman who easily stands out thanks to her infectious smile earning her the moniker ‘Captain Smiles’. She was the very first black African female licensed hot air balloon pilot who inspired others to join the male dominated career.
Visiting the Maasai Mara and experiencing the hot air balloon ignited her interest. Later, she got married into a family that was into hot air balloons. The family has generations of hot air balloonists. The two factors played a vital role in her decision to venture in the less trodden path of becoming a licensed hot air balloon pilot.
Joyce says she received a warm reception as a female pilot. No one looked at her differently just because she was a woman.
She believes the reason most females in the continent are not into piloting Balloons is the lack of exposure. Unlike, in other places like Europe or America, Kenya has very few spots where one can experience the hot air balloon.
As she flies high over nature, she believes two things heighten the experience: the people with her in the basket and what they get to see that day. With about 100 hours to her belt, Wairimu believes this is definitely a career that more people need to get into.
The ever smiling lady attended a balloon flying school in Albuquerque since there are no balloon schools in the continent, those interested have to go to Europe or America. She obtained her pilot license in 2018.