Hot air balloon rides are exhilarating in any setting. A hot air balloon safari over Serengeti National Park, though, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We highly recommend that adventurous guests plan to stay at the park for at least three days to allow time for this activity along with your other safari activities such game drives, bush walks, village visits and more. Additionally, hot air balloon flights need to be pre-arranged by your Doran Africa Safaris trip representative to ensure guaranteed availability due to the limited space of only 16 passengers in a hot air balloon. The hot air balloons can accommodate adults and children, with some limitations. Children must be at least four years old and must be accommodation by a parent or guardian. We recommend that adults be in good physical condition. Adults who are over 265 lbs (120 kg) may be required to purchase an additional spot on the hot air balloon (twice the cost) for safety precautions, though this can be waived depending on flight occupancy at the discretion and prior approval from the pilot. For our guests who have not been on a hot air ballooning excursion in Africa or elsewhere, we offer some general information about how a hot air balloon works and what to expect. Typically, staff of 20-25 people are required for the launch and recovery. When you arrive at the launch site, you may have a chance to see the balloon, also known as an “envelope,” being inflated. The ground crew opens the envelope by laying it across the ground. A large fan is used to inflate the envelope partially. When the envelope is about half-full, the crew attaches the basket and burner. The basket remains fully secured to the ground during inflation. The burner is used to inflate the envelope fully.
Watching the inflation and preparation is an incredible experience, as you soon see the truly massive size of the balloon. Once the balloon is fully inflated, the crew helps passengers aboard. The basket of your balloon is sectioned into multiple compartments for both your comfort and safety. The ground crew steadies the balloon as your pilot gives you and other guests a safety overview. When everyone is set, the burner is turned on once again, and you feel the balloon aloft the ground. The crew guides the basket until the balloon is safely launched. No two hot air balloon safaris are the same. The hot air balloon rely on air currents, such as wind direction and speed. The pilot only controls the up and down movement. This is why hot air balloons require a chase team, and why you will have a unique and exclusive tour of Serengeti National Park during each hot air balloon safari! Best of all, hot air balloons fly over areas of the park that are restricted to safari vehicles! During your flight, even the altitude of your balloon flight is different – sometimes, you rise high above the plains so you can see for miles while at other times, you remain closer to earth, giving you close-up views of the animals. Doran Africa Safaris can arrange hot air ballooning in Serengeti for all guests staying either in the park or outside; though, pickup times do vary depending on the distance from the launch site. Private hot air balloon safaris can also be arranged for multi-generation families and small groups during their bush holiday, and a discounted rate may be available depending on your month of travel.
The day of your hot air balloon safari with Doran Africa Safaris begins before dawn. You awaken to the quiet sounds of the East African bush – soft calls of indigenous birds, rustling vegetation signaling the presence of a large mammal, low snorts and grunts of hippos returning to the river and may be a distant roar of a lion. Your curiosity is piqued as to the wonder and amazement you are sure to feel as you drift above the Savannah plains in a hot air balloon. A soft voice outside your tent pulls you back to reality, and you hurriedly dress in your favorite Tanzania safari attire.
Anticipation grows as you await the launch. The ground crew skillfully steadies the balloon as the pilot lights the burner consistently. You feel a strange sensation in your stomach as you see the ground slip away. You look across the landscape, seeing what you imagine being the farthest edges of the terrain. As you ascend aerially, beautiful features unfold before your eyes – gentle rolling hills, meandering rivers and lush grasslands. From this vantage point, you realize that you can locate wildlife with little guidance – giraffes, elephants, gazelles, hippos and many other grazers and foragers. If you are lucky, you may even spot the lordly predators like lions, hyenas, cheetahs and other hunters. As you sail above the park, you gain a greater perspective and deeper appreciation for the intricacies of the Serengeti ecosystem, as well as the synergistic relationship between flora and fauna. You see how animals feed upon vegetation, moving when a new supply is needed. You watch herds move toward the water to drink and bathe. You watch as two elephant bulls fight for breeding rights. You notice how a cheetah mother gracefully moves through tall grasses to hunt food for her young. You observe a fish eagle soar in the open skies before diving to the river’s surface where it elegantly extracts a fish. Should your personalized Doran Africa Safaris travel to Serengeti occur from July to October, you may also be enthralled by the Great Migration of enormous herds of wildebeests and zebras. Your hot air balloon ride lasts about one hour, but your experience lasts a lifetime and very much worth its high price. After landing, the ground crew helps you out of the basket and escorts you to a lovely setting for a bush breakfast. A customary champagne toast celebrates not only your experience, but also the incredible beauty that you discover during your superb dream vacation in Africa.