We were in an astronaut position inside the hot air balloon basket as I tried to look away from the nervous faces nearby. We had woken up at an unearthly hour of 4 am, tiptoed to the lobby at the Four Seasons Serengeti to be greeted by warm croissants and coffee. Our ride was promptly there at 5 am to pick us up and we drove an hour through the pitch-black Serengeti plains towards our launch site for our hot air balloon safari in Serengeti.
Our hot air balloon Safari in Serengeti Experience
As we got to the field, the captain and his crew were working to get the balloon upright as the morning sun started to make its way up the sky. In minutes the basket turned upright and we were floating gently towards the clouds. We didn’t get very high up just a few trees up when one of the passengers asked – how high will we get to. The captain smiled and said maybe 3 trees high.
Soon, we were drifting slowly over the Serengeti plains, calmly in the silence of the African dawn. Speechlessly watching the big orange ball come up against the horizon. In the morning light, we saw a cheetah run, maybe it was running away from the balloon. It was a unique perspective to see this animal move through the tall grass, something you can’t see on a land safari. Back in Kenya, we had seen a coalition of five cheetahs come together for a hunt. But when they raced into the tall grass we had lost sight of them.
The Seronera River provides the only permanent water in this area. We followed the river up for a bit and saw a lot of wildlife congregate around the water source. We saw a few giraffes grazing, munching leaves off the acacia trees. A couple of hippos frolicking in the water. And a lion stopped mid-meal to crane his neck and look up at the balloon. This was a unique bird’s-eye view rather balloon’s view of the incredibly vast landscape.
Massive in size at about 6,000 square miles, it is impossible to imagine the vastness of Serengeti National Park. Seeing it from above the tree level gives a glimpse of this sea of uninterrupted grasslands. As the balloon floated on, it was as if time stood still… everything was quiet except for the occasional whispers of the balloon.
A bush breakfast under Acacia trees
The Acacia green and Savannah gold fabric of the balloons blend perfectly with the Serengeti landscape as it glides over the endless golden landscape. But alas all good things have to come to an end. Eventually, the pilot landed the balloon softly on the grass, where champagne was waiting for us and orange juice for the kids. It was 8 am… and the day has only just begun. After some champagne, we got into our jeeps again and were led to a clearing under a tree where a Champagne bush breakfast was waiting for us.
When we were told we would be having a bush breakfast, this is not what I had imagined. The breakfast setup looked like it was for a wedding brunch. A wedding brunch under an acacia tree! There were tables with green table linens and china and silverware. We were offered water to wash our hands before sitting down for breakfast.
Over champagne and coffee, we visited with other passengers. There were sixteen of us in each balloon and about eight balloons lifted off that morning. The couple next to us was from Brazil and they convinced us that we need to make it to Patagonia and Chile soon. We met another family who had done a hot air balloon ride in Luxor, Egypt and told us how amazing the Pyramids are when viewed from a balloon basket. Needless to say, both places have moved up my bucket list.
We enjoyed our warm bread, fruit and freshly prepared breakfast fare and more champagne while our Balloon captain handed out our certificates. And it was time to go back on a land safari to see more of this amazing landscape that is home to so many different wildlife species, from big cats to birds to beetles.
How to book the hot air balloon Safari in Serengeti
We booked our hot air balloon safari through the Four Seasons Lodge where we stayed in Tanzania. The flights last approximately one hour and are followed by a Champagne bush breakfast. Children from age seven and above are able to go on the balloon safari. We did see a few families with kids during the bush breakfast. The balloon ride was approximately $599 per person including the pick up at the lodge and breakfast. (at the time of this article)
You can also book directly through their website. Serengeti Balloon safaris now operate in Central Serengeti, Western Corridor of Serengeti. Seasonally in Serengeti South and also in Grumeti Reserves. All pilots hold commercial balloon pilot licenses issued by the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority. Seeing the Serengeti from this unique perspective was one of the highlights of our trip to Eastern Africa.
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