Thrilling way to see Africa’s incredible landscapes and animals than from a hot air balloon.
Since it first took flight in 1783, the hot-air balloon has been one of the most unique ways to see the world’s spectacular settings from above and Africa is no different from this.
Aching for a bird’s-eye view of the beautiful Serengeti and floating in a hot-air balloon whilst you view the vast herds of wildebeest move over the arid landscape and cross the Masai Mara River. The hot air balloon safari offers a unique perspective and a great view of the amazing scale and beauty of Africa’s gorgeous landscape. This is also ideal if you’re looking for amazing photo of Africa’s beautiful natural splendour, caught in the oblique rays of the golden sun over its verdant grasslands.
The flight usually entails a very early pre-dawn start, driving from camp to the take-off area. The balloon is usually filled with hot air around first light, enabling take-off at dawn. The flight itself can last anything from half and hour to two hours, dependent largely on the wind conditions.
Almost all balloon experiences conclude with a champagne breakfast, a tradition which dates back to the time of the pioneering Montgolfier brothers, when the French parliament declared that balloon pilots had the right to land anywhere, so long as they gave the landowner a bottle of champagne by way of compensation. Some pilots still use a sword to remove the tops of the champagne bottles. After breakfast guests are driven back to their lodges or to a rendezvous with their safari vehicles and guides.
The pioneering balloon safaris in the Maasai Mara were soon mimicked in the adjoining Serengeti across the border in Tanzania, where they continue to be a major feature in many safaris. There are now multiple take-off locations in the Serengeti. As well as the original central Seronera site, balloons are also based at Kogatende in the north and Ndutu in the south.
A little further south, balloon safaris are now offered in Tarangire National Park a little further to the south.
For a quieter and more authentic balloon safari experience one has to look to the Busanga Plains in the northern sector of Kafue National Park in Zambia. Here a single relatively small balloon operates for the benefit of guests in the handful of small camps nearby. The chances of seeing a lot of wildlife from the balloon may be lower than in the aforementioned areas, but the experience is much more authentic and chilled.
Another excellent location for ballooning is the Sossusvlei area of southwest Namibia. Here the experience is less about wildlife watching, although oryx, springbok and ostrich are usually around, and more about viewing the remarkable desert scenery. There are two commonly used take-off areas, the more commercial close to the Sesriem Gate, the less commercial one at Camp Mwishu in the Namibrand Nature Reserve to the south. We strongly recommend this experience.
Also, in Namibia, but this time in the Twyfelfontein area to the northwest, is a balloon operation which appears to operate with a much lower volume of guests. We have not flown from this location yet, but we have visited the take-off site at Camp Kipwe. It looked to us like the chances of seeing much game would be pretty slight, but the landscape around there is pretty cool.
Surprisingly balloon safaris are not a big deal in South Africa. There are a few modest operations around the country, but not really any that one would build a trip around, as people tend to in East Africa.
The main safari location with a balloon operation is the Hoedspruit area to the west of Kruger National Park. Trouble is not many of our guests would otherwise choose to stay in the generally weaker reserves in this immediate area, so chances are that including a balloon safari would have a negative effect on your overall safari experience. The other safari location which offers ballooning is over at Pilanesberg, but again this is a much lesser safari area.
Ballooning is also offered at the Cradle of Mankind close to Johannesburg and in the Cape Winelands.
Surprisingly, given the flat terrain and stable weather systems, balloon safari has never really been a significant activity in Botswana. However, there is now an operation at Kadizora Camp. However, this camp is not in a prime wildlife area, so including a balloon safari could have a negative impact on the quality of your overall safari.