One of the most magical things you can do while on safari is take a hot-air balloon ride. Floating over the Serengeti is truly a thrill of a lifetime. It’s not that easy to get the timing right to see the great migration, but the balloon operator in the Serengeti has three launch sites all primed for the big event. You have a very good chance of seeing this wildlife spectacle, at least while the zebra and wildebeest are munching on Tanzanian grass.
The balloon ride really consists of three adventures in one. The first one starts with a 5 am wake up call. Tough, but more than worth the rare opportunity of experiencing the Serengeti in the dark. Clients have seen genets, bat-eared foxes, leopards, hippos grazing, and much more — just in the half hour drive to the launch site.
The second adventure is of course the balloon ride itself. As long as the weather cooperates, the balloon ride lasts an hour. Taking off while lying down in the basket is an exciting part of the experience. You’ll get plenty of help from staff to get in the right position. Just make sure you bring something to tie up your hair and tuck in loose clothing. You don’t want to get anything caught while the balloon floats up.
Once you are floating over the magnificent landscape it’s time to get out the cameras. The balloon floats so smoothly, there’s no turbulence at all, so it’s easy to take photos. Some of the wildlife runs away from the balloon, since the noise coming from the burners is significant. But the moment the burners take a rest, the only noise you’ll hear are the birds singing and perhaps some hippos grunting. Looking down at the pathway patterns made by the hooves of millions of ungulates criss-crossing over the entire landscape is awe inspiring. They join together at waterholes like a giant, natural join-the-dot tapestry. As you skim the tops of the acacia trees, look out for baboons, colobus and vervet monkeys, sunning themselves in the canopies.
All too soon, the magical hour is over, a landing site is spotted by the pilot and it’s time to sit down and get ready to land. Landings can be bumpy, you may be dragged along the ground a little, but the padded seats will protect you. Since all flights in the Serengeti happen early in the morning, the winds are usually at their calmest, and landings are easy.
Champagne on arrival is a fine ballooning tradition. And even in the Serengeti, they’ve found a way to serve it perfectly chilled. Once everyone has toasted the captain and had a glass or two, it’s time for the final adventure — a real “out of Africa” breakfast. A lot of time in the Serengeti is spent in a safari vehicle, so the chance to have a full breakfast under a tree with wildlife all around, is a wonderful experience. Sizzling sausages, eggs and bacon is served by staff in turbans, you’ll find your inner Karen Blixen right here. Once breakfast comes to a leisurely end, the pilot hands everyone a certificate. With this souvenir in hand and a lifetime of memories, it’s time for a game drive back to your camp or lodge.
If you’d like to try a Serengeti balloon safari, contact us and we can arrange it for you. Please note, they do have to be booked several months in advance as balloon space is limited.