Meet Captain Joyce Beckwith the first black woman hot air balloon pilot in Africa: “Be brave and go out of your comfort zone to find something you love” says Joyce Wairimu Beckwith a.k.a Captain Smiles.
Joyce Beckwith may be a hotelier by training, but once she got introduced to ballooning she never looked back. ‘Captain Smiles; as she’s known, obtained her commercial pilot license in 2018 paving the way for other women in what is a predominantly male industry.
Working in Maasai Mara, Joyce says she got fascinated by the hot air balloons that were always flying tourists at the game reserve.
Having been brought up in the city, it took her time to settle into the bush life at Maasai Mara and after making a few friends, she started joining her tour driver friends on game drives around the reserve. Even though she was using the moment to unwind on her days off, she fell in love with the bush, and soon she wanted to see everything from above.
Luckily she married into a ballooning family – her father-in-law and her husband are all balloonists, and her husband’s granddad was one too.
Hot air balloon flights in Africa: