Floating silently above the vast plains, high enough to see for miles around, but not too high that one misses the action of the wild life below, a hot air balloon ride in the Serengeti must be one of the most iconic, and on many people’s bucket lists, experience on earth.
The Serengeti balloon safari starts early in the morning in the Seronera and Grumeti plains, and you leave your lodge at dawn. The pre-dawn pick-up happens at around 5.30 am. You won’t be going alone as they let about 12 other guests accompany you.
After arrival at the launch site, you will be welcomed by your pilot and a few other people inflating the balloon. A detailed safety briefing will then follow with a demo of boarding the balloon and landing position and lift off.
Once inside the carrier-basket, gas hoses will get connected to the propane tanks inside the basket. The burner will be lit, and hot air will be propelled upwards to lift off the balloon. The balloon will then lift and float. Inside you will feel hot as the flames from the burners are very warm. You may not hear the wind inside the basket. You will experience a serene sense of peace while up in the skies.
You will then experience an exhilarating feeling as the balloon begins to float as you watch the sunrise from the east. The balloon will drift towards any direction the wind happens to flow on that morning.
The trip takes about one hour depending on the wind. As you depart, it is still dark, and you’ll be able to spot pockets of nocturnal animals as you soar overhead. The balloon can climb up to 10,000 feet. You will not see many animals in the balloon flight path, but you will see some in the distance. Once the flight is over, they will treat you to an English breakfast at around 10.30 am. This lavish breakfast is cooked and served in the bush with clean linen, cutlery along with the great company of other travellers.
As you float over the Seronera plains, you will see the Seronera River. It is the only source of permanent water in the area. There is immense scenic beauty, and many animals can be spotted from above including lions, elephants, buffaloes, zebras and other small species. The vast plains, acacia woodlands, and the many hippo pools all make it a feast for the eyes.
If you float from December to March, you can catch the great migration of wildebeests.
Flying in a hot air balloon is not quite like flying in an aircraft as the only sensation you experience is from your eyes. You notice movement and you only experience drifting with the breeze. The feeling is truly magical. It is hard to describe flying with the wind and having no sense of movement. Whether it is a bright sunny morning or a foggy evening, words cannot quite describe the sensations inside a hot air balloon.
If it is your first time to fly in a hot air balloon, it is entirely reasonable to be a little apprehensive about what to expect. The reason they launch at dawn is that the wind is calm at this hour. You will see vast plains of savannah grasslands and isolated hills for miles. Animal appearance will be sporadic and mostly unannounced. A giraffe here, elephants there, a pride of lions and a herd of buffaloes there etc.
Do not forget to view our previous article Best Places To Visit In The Serengeti