If you want to see diversely rich animals from a unique perspective, a hot air balloon safari is what you need.
It’s pre-dawn and your safari guide is driving you right towards the flames. You watch as the fire erupts in the distance, spurting like dragon breath for a moment and then disappearing. But you know this is neither wildfire nor some fire-belching beast. No, you’re fully aware of what this is:
It’s a hot air balloon inflating!
Today is the day you scratch off a major bucket list item: floating in a balloon over the Serengeti, one of the wildest places on the planet. You’ve dreamt of this since childhood: scraping the tops of acacia trees while you quietly follow herds of elephants and giraffes from above.
Three experienced aviation specialists greet your arrival. The air is brisk at six in the morning, so you decide to stay close to the balloon as it fills from the roar of flames. After a short safety briefing, you join several others in the “basket,” and, just like that, the balloon stands erect and it happens: you’re airborne—first, a foot; then ten feet; then you’re hovering at treetop level and the hour-long drift begins, revealing 5,695 square miles of the untamed Serengeti in all directions. The scale and awe is more real than anything you’ve experienced before.
What to expect
- Pre-dawn departure. Most Serengeti balloons depart at sunrise so be prepared for an early-bird wake up call at your accommodations.
- Duration and height. Flight time is roughly an hour. Based on the day’s wind and weather, the experienced pilots either hang low to the Serengeti floor or boost up to over 1,000 feet. Fun fact: the world record height in a hot air balloon is almost 69,000 feet up Worry not, as most safari balloon rides stay between treetops and a thousand feet. Also, don’t expect to get too up close and personal with wildlife—for safety and ecological disturbance reasons—but you should be prepared for anything. No one float is the same!
- English breakfast. After landing you will celebrate with a flute of champagne then Flight time is roughly an hour. Based on the day’s wind and weather, the experienced pilots either hang low to the Serengeti floor or boost up to over 1,000 feet. Fun fact: the world record height in a hot air balloon is almost 69,000 feet up Worry not, as most safari balloon rides stay between treetops and a thousand feet. Also, don’t expect to get too up close and personal with wildlife—for safety and ecological disturbance reasons—but you should be prepared for anything. No one float is the same!
- English breakfast. After landing you will celebrate with a flute of champagne then whisk off to a proper English Breakfast (think white linen, fine china, doughy pastries, endless coffee and tea), all set up outside and fully immersed in the Serengeti wilds.
Top 3 reasons we hear people doing a hot air balloon safari
- “It’s on My Bucket List!” Most people who commit to a hot air balloon safari have it on their life’s bucket list. I include this fact for two reasons: a) know that it’s a commitment. Your balloon float will be replacing a morning game drive, and b) you will share the experience with several other enthusiastic balloon-dreamers.
- I Want a Unique Perspective!” For most people, spending a few days of safari is itself a lifetime achievement, (Hint: Tanzania is your best bet for safari) but some wish to take their vantage points to new heights. From the air you really get a sense of scale, which lives at the heart of why the Serengeti is such as powerful place. And with balloons there is no noisy propeller or bumpy dirt road. It’s a smooth and peaceful drift over this dreamscape.
- “The Breakfast Sounds Delicious!” Yes, it’s that good. There’s no better way to finish off one of your life’s greatest experiences than to be provided a delectable, white-linen treat to debrief and bask in Serengeti glory.
But what do I wear?
- Bring Layers, Break Wind. Though you’ll want to wear something warm in the early morning, be ready for it to warm up. Windbreakers and layers are crucial. For more, here’s a complete safari clothing checklist
- Cover your Melon. If you’ve got hair on your head, hats can work double-duty: they shield the sun while also keeping unruly hair from whipping the person next to you. Your fellow balloon mates will appreciate your cap.
- Protect your Skin. Though you will have a giant balloon right above you for shade, the sun won’t be high in the sky yet so protect your face, ears, and nose with a strong SPF sunscreen. Sunglasses are an absolute must-have.
Other Helpful Tidbits:
- Go When it’s Green. According to Balloon Safaris, balloon floats happen year-round, and the “green seasons” offer lush landscapes and potential wildebeest migration sightings.
- Make Potty a Priority. Think about it: you’ll be in the sky for an hour, snug in a basket with several others and no toilet, so be sure to take care of business before you go!
- Batteries and Binoculars. The last thing you want is to get in the air and realize you didn’t charge your batteries. You won’t be able to carry much with you, but be sure and pack a spare camera battery as well binoculars and safety straps. Dropping anything from the balloon is frowned upon.