On this week’s episode of African Voices, CNN International meets veteran hot air balloon pilot David Eris Nguruga. Having shown off Kenya’s Masai Mara sunrise for over 12 years, Nguruga explains how he turned a childhood dream into reality.
Nguruga fondly remembers when his love for flying began: “I think I had developed a liking for flying airplanes when I was a kid. I remember, we were having lunch and this fighter jet came out. I stepped out and stepped on my food just to see this plane. I was like, “whoa”. I said, I want to fly one. I want to be in one. So, I think I developed that from my childhood but never thought that I could do it.”
With help from his mother, Nguruga was able to get a job in a hot air balloon company. He says: “The owner of the balloon company, my mom was sort of his nanny. When I finished school, you know, my mom went to him and said, “I would like some help” … He told my mom “the way how I can help you maybe… I can give your son a job to do and he can help you.” So, I had no choice I just had to agree.”
With hard work and determination, Nguruga was able to go from a member of the crew to a pilot as he tells CNN: “I started as a crew, I just started packing up balloons and following the retrieve vehicles. In 2004, I became the crew chief of the company as well as sort of the administrator in on impact of the operations. And so, I did that for like two years, three years, I think. And after that three years, that’s when they decided to train me as a pilot.”
Nguruga tells CNN what he enjoys most about his job: “I would say [I have] one of the best office offices ever. Because, you know, who else gets to see the sunrise in the morning… You lift off and you’re just sort of a hotel bubble floating in the sky. It’s so cool. The feeling, I tell you, nothing like that.”
Despite enjoying what he does, Nguruga explains how the job is not as easy is it may seem: “We say it’s a one-hour job. But not one hour, it’s like working eight hours. You got peoples’ lives and you have to be multi-tasking because you’ve got people in the balloon. So, you are the only crew up here, and you got to be talking to them. It’s like, I’m flying, have to remember that and I’m the hostess talking to the clients.”
With help from friends and family, Nguruga was able to achieve his dreams and wants others to know that they can do the same: “You actually never know what’s going to happen in your future. I always did my job [the] normal way without thinking what the future brings. After they told me they were going to train me I [had] no words to say. I was thinking how expensive it is to train and I knew I couldn’t afford that, and the boss of the company said he’s going to sponsor me… So, I have to work hard and prove to myself [to] my family, my colleagues [and] my country that yes, we can do this, and I managed to do it and here I am today flying balloons in the Mara.”