Everything you need to know about Serengeti hot air balloon safari
Not enough words adequately explain the exhilarating experience of a hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti as a magnificent vista unfolds itself around you.
The Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, is well-known for providing one of the most incredible safari experiences in Africa. It boasts breathtaking scenery and an incredible diversity of fauna. Covering an area of 15,000 square kilometres, a balloon ride is the ultimate way to get an aerial view of this African jewel.
The feeling of watching the basket soar above the Serengeti is electric. The wilderness passes majestically beneath you. A sliver of sunshine catches the horizon. Feeling the air, the bird tweets. During the captivating lifetime experience, you can see herds of wildebeest. You deserve this adrenaline rush, and the journey is worthwhile.
How Do Hot Air Balloons Operate?
Before taking off, your pilot will review safety procedures and how to buckle up for landings. At first light, the burners ignite, pumping out warm air to slowly inflate the balloon.
With the basket upright, the the balloon nearly inflated above you, a magnificent team of balloon staff assist you into the basket. Once you are in, it is an electrifying sensation once the balloon begins to drift.
The wind determines the balloon’s drift. You can drift over areas of the Serengeti that do not allow vehicle access.
There are no power lines or fences, and the roads are hardly visible. As the wilderness awakens and animals move around, it’s a breathtaking sight. Your experienced pilot will determine your elevation, ranging from only a few metres above the ground, to higher up to obtain a view of the magnificent vista. You drift gently over acacia woods, savannah, rivers and scattered plains.
Seeing zebras, elephants, impala, giraffes, gazelles and much more, from the air is a breath-taking experience.
Your pilot adjusts the burners to control the height of the balloon. Depending on the wind, your flight may stay low to the ground drifting over the tops of trees. Or, soar to a height of 300 metres or more, so you can see the vastness of the Serengeti. Every balloon flight is a different experience.
When to land will be decided by the pilot. The balloon will gently touch the ground, and bump along as the pilot deflates the balloon, and the chase vehicle with the team of balloon staff, come to assist with helping you out of the balloon.
There are lots of photos and excitement as you land. You then jump into one of the balloon vehicles, who then escort you to a remote setting for a bubbly champagne “Out of Africa” breakfast.
When should you take a balloon ride?
Balloon rides are available all year round because much of the time the weather is very settled due to the large land mass.
During the dry months of June through to October, the hot air balloon ride is also ideal. The magnificent Great Wildebeest Migration is visible under the wonderful sky.
Even in the wet season, a balloon safari is amazing. Typically rainfall occurs in the afternoon and at night. Early in the morning, when it is brilliant, you can see beautiful game against gorgeous green back-drop..
Whether the balloon flight takes place is determined by the weather. It is very rare for balloons not to fly, and there are only a handful of days each year when the weather is too windy or wet. If there is a strong wind or it is pouring with rain, your flight will be cancelled, and you will be fully refunded.
When are the balloon rides held?
Hot air balloon rides are a very early morning activity. Before the sun rises, get ready for an early morning start. Your start time is determined by the lodge or camp you are staying at, and its distance from the balloon launch point.
How long does it take to go on a balloon ride?
This varies between 45 minutes to 75 minutes. The variation is due to the wind. Less wind means you will enjoy a slightly longer flight. Your pilot will skilfully navigate your altitude in order to maximise your flight time, based on the wind on the morning of your flight.
What is the capacity of the basket?
A balloon rides is a shared activity, and you should expect to have other guests flying with you. The balloons typically hold 12 to 16 passengers.
Is it safe and secure?
The hot-air balloons receive regular maintenance and servicing. These safety precautions are offset by the high costs. A crew with experience makes sure that nothing breaks.
What clothing is appropriate for a balloon ride?
Although it can be a little chilly in the morning, the temperature warms up over the day. For strong wind protection and sunrise viewing, wear a hat. On skin that is exposed, use sunscreen. Wearing garments with sleeves is the best option. Remember to bring binoculars or a camera so you can document the scenery.
Is there a weight limit?
An acceptable weight range is 80 kg. Guests over 120 kg will need to pay for two places.
What can one expect from a balloon ride?
The balloon operator will come and collect you from your camp or lodge, before sunrise. They drive you to the launchpad. You might be fortunate enough to see nocturnal animals like the civet cat scuttling across the long grass, hippos making their way back to the river, lions between 4am and 5:30am in the morning.
The basket typically hangs low on the Serengeti floor, rising only a short distance over the treetops. If they need to fly higher, they will advise and explain why. Your pilot will provide some great information during the flight. But also, do not be afraid to ask questions. At the end of the flight, you will be provided with a delicious fully cooked “champagne” brunch. Your balloon activity typically ends around 9am to 9.30am, when your personal guide comes to pick you up, to then continue on a game-drive for the rest of the morning.
Or, for the rest of the day, with a packed lunch. This will be determined the night before, when liaising with your guide as to whether you would like to enjoy a game drive, and then return to your lodge/camp for lunch. Or, to take a packed lunch and enjoy a full day out. The latter option will naturally make for a long day; but it is worth it as having a packed lunch means you can explore areas further away from your camp or lodge.
How much is a balloon ride?
There are a limited number of spaces available, so we advise you to contact us and pre-book your balloon ride. There is no guarantee of availability if you wait to book your balloon ride when you are in the Serengeti. Whether your pre-book or book when in the Serengeti; the pricing is the same, and around US$ 600 per person. The exact cost will depend on where you are staying and the balloon safari company booked.