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Blog: Annie takes off on a balloon safari
Taking to the skies above the African savannah is more popular than ever with hot air balloon safaris being the top of many of our clients’ bucket-lists. Here Annie gives her account of soaring above the Serengeti…
I’ve been fascinated since a young age by how hot air can hold aloft these beautiful silk balloons, as they float seemingly effortlessly across the horizon. Safety concerns and the undeniable fact that they’re a pretty expensive experience to have, meant that I had kept my feet firmly planted on the ground – until now…
To take advantage of the best thermals and enjoy a spectacular African sunrise it is necessary to rise long before dawn. Safaris usually mean getting up early to take advantage of the best game viewing ahead of the hottest point of the day, but this really did feel like waking in the dead of night! You do get something of a night game drive thrown in though, a time when you can spot some of the rarest nocturnal beast. As dawn begins to break the balloons are unfurled as a small army of technicians prepare everything for the flight – it is hard to comprehend that this extensive and intricate operation is undertaken day after day. Finally it was our turn to take our place in the basket – shimmying in whilst it lies on its side, before our pilot Shaun expertly released the gas as the balloon lifted effortlessly into flight over the vast plains of the Serengeti. For the next hour we drifted over the plains, taking the opportunity to capture the scene with as many photos and videos as we could. Whilst game viewing is more limited due to the height at which you fly and having less control over the direction in which you travel, we did get an unbeatable perspective on the bush below. We even had the incredible fortune to go over a small kopje with a lioness and her cubs atop – a really amazing sight! As we came into land, I was prepared for an almighty thump, but it was surprisingly low-key with the basket gradually coming to a rest.
After the balloon was deflated we had the slightly ungainly task of clambering out of the basket! Once out, we immediately found our hands full with sparkling wine and were ushered to a bush breakfast, complete with white tablecloths, under the shade of acacia trees. With breakfast complete, we were taken to see those super cute lion cubs just down the road. So much had happened already today, and we still had the whole day to explore the endless plains of the Serengeti! There is no denying that a hot air balloon safari doesn’t come cheap, but I really found it worthwhile. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I would highly recommend it to you to celebrate a special occasion or just to get a different perspective on the bush!
Our top camps to enjoy a hot air balloon safari from are:
Governors’ Camp – based in the Masai Mara and with their own balloons, Governors’ has to be the top pick for a balloon safari.
Serengeti Wilderness Camp – based in the heart of the central Serengeti, this is the perfect spot from which to make it to the balloon launch site.
Olakira Camp – with one of the best locations when the wildebeest migration is in the north of the Serengeti, this is the perfect base from which to go on a balloon safari to try and spot a river crossing from above!