It is rare that you can get a bird’s eye view of anything, especially of one of the most iconic wildlife plains in the world, the Serengeti. As you fly in a jet over land at a height of over 30,000 feet anywhere in the world, you will get a glimpse of the land below on a cloudless day, but you can only imagine what is happening down there. When you glide silently over land in a balloon safari close to the ground, you can see every detail. It’s a great unique way to enjoy a safari in Serengeti.
The balloon that you can take over the Serengeti causes no distress to the wildlife below, and you will get a completely different perspective of the activity. The Serengeti in Tanzania is one of the best places in the whole world, never mind just in Africa, to enjoy the experience of a lifetime in a hot air balloon. It covers around 11,500 square miles in the North of Tanzania, linking to the smaller Masai Mara in Kenya. You can obviously see just a small fraction of that, but you will see much more from on high in a balloon than you ever could in a jeep on the ground.
The principle of hot air balloon flight is that the hot air in the balloon itself gives elevation because of that hot air has a lower density than the colder air outside the envelope. As you soar as a bird would do over the Serengeti, you can see for many a mile. You may go as high as 1,000 feet which allows you to see far into the distance on the clear day typical of this part of Africa.
However, much of the time you may not be much above treetop height so arguably closer to the animals than you ever would be in a jeep. The herds and the herbivores, in general, will be busy feeding with half an eye on any predators but they will completely ignore the balloon above them. They see them regularly and know they pose no threat.
Early Morning Sunrise
With the best time to take a balloon safari very early in the morning, you will get a chance to see the end of the night’s activities as the sun begins to rise. There are no night safaris in the Serengeti so booking a flight gives you that added bonus of traveling from your lodge to the balloon while it is still dark and ascending in the earliest of light.
Once you have taken your place in the basket, the pilot launches the balloon. Now and then, the pilot needs to heat the air in the envelope so sends a boost from the burners but other than in those brief moments, you are in complete silence, other than your own conversations in the balloon’s basket. Often any conversations are just in whispers because of the activity that is going on down below.
There are defined trails that take you to the best spots in the Serengeti and jeeps are not permitted to drive wherever they want to in jeeps. As a result, you will be restricted to seeing the wildlife that is close to the trails. In a hot air balloon, there are no such restrictions. One great route is along the Seronera River where animals gather to drink, and predators know that. Few places have as dense a population of big cats, lion, leopard, and cheetah as the Seronera with leopards especially difficult to see when you enjoy a jeep safari.
There is a vast number of animals near this River all year round but between April and June as well as October and December, you will see the huge herds on the move in search of huge grazing. Imagine seeing that from the air as opposed to being at ground level. It will give you a real appreciation of the scale of the activity. There will be animals as far as the eye can see.
Outside those months, it is the resident animals that you will see. They include plenty of species that interact quite happily with each other though not with the predators. While lion numbers in the Serengeti have fallen in recent years, you will still have a good chance of seeing them near the river and if they have had a successful hunt through the night, they are likely to be feeding before going to sleep for most of the rest of the day. Prey species that see lions feeding may move quite close to them because they realize that hunting is no longer on their minds.
Here’s a video of our stunning accommodation in the Seronera, where you can stay if you wish to experience a balloon safari:
Celebrations on Landing
Time will fly and on landing, usually enjoying a glass of champagne, you might be in a state of shock with your mind racing over what you have seen. The pictures in your mind will remain with you for a long time with your photographs there to reinforce your memory. Friends and family will enjoy them and not run to all corners to see someone else’s holiday photographs.
You can expect breakfast close to where you land with most of the day left for land-based safaris although late afternoon is the next best time for heading out in a jeep for seeing more wildlife. Relax in-between time and look at the images you have captured.
Hot Air balloons have been a tourist attraction in different parts of the world for some years now. Even then, although there are some stunning landscapes that have become popular, silently moving over a famous wildlife plain where the activity can change minute by minute and day by day is unique. The Serengeti is a place that wildlife documentaries have brought into homes throughout the Planet, yet cameramen have access to areas that land-based tourists can never access. Those who decide to book a hot air balloon safari have similar access to those professional documentary filmmakers. It provides a priceless experience with memories that will last a lifetime.