Day 11: Hot air ballooning in the Serengeti

Ticking an item off the bucket list.

It’s so iconic it is almost cliché. A hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti at sunrise, is so much better than you could possibly imagine.

The 4 am wake up call was not as magical as you think, and the bleary-eyed scramble to get ready for 5 am take off was somewhere between tragic and comical. An hour of bumping along something between a disorganized set of ruts and an invisible track through the predawn light brings us to a balloon being filled on the ground.

We get a pre-flight briefing, get loaded into the basket, the balloon fills, and we take off. No wind as we slowly rise, barely clearing the treetops. The pilot explains what is happening as we rise and descend over hills and trees. In a few minutes we are over the Mara River and a favourable air current has us following a straight stretch of the river. The pilot descends below the height of the riverbanks, and we are just a few meters above the water. Crocodiles and hippos are easily seen as we float lazily upriver. The river bends and we rise up. From the air, herds of wildebeest make their appearance as do elephants, zebra, warthogs, antelope, and the beauty of the Serengeti fills our senses. We rise way up, and the view is spectacular.

In the distance, those of our group that didn’t make this trip are on a game drive. The guides have positioned themselves so we will overfly them. The pilot descends so low we are only a couple of meters above the roof of the trucks, and we are taking photos of people taking our photo. Good natured banter back and forth for the seconds it takes, and we are past them and rising once again. The flight continues for another half hour and the pilot expertly places us about 100 meters from a table set with our champagne breakfast.

As the saying goes…. You got to try this.