My first day in Tanzania was incredible … more than I could have anticipated or imagined! My wife Natalie and I woke up super early in one of the comfortable beds at the Four Seasons Serengeti Lodge to meet the rest of our group in the lobby at 4am. (We’re on a sponsored Micato Safaris trip.) As instructed, we all dressed ‘like onions’ wearing multiple layers because we were told it was going to be chilly in the morning but would heat up as the day progressed.
Serengeti sighting: Lions
On the hour-long drive along a bumpy dirt road to the balloon launch site, we spotted all kinds of wild animals scurrying across the road and scampering through the long grass. But then the Serengeti delivered the ultimate sighting. The highlight, without question, was seeing a lion and lioness just hanging out on the side of the road. It was unbelievable. They just sat there and stared at us. We were so close and we all just sat there looking at each other. After about ten minutes we finally decided it was time to continue on our journey so it was us who left, not them.
Serengeti Balloon Safaris
It was still dark when we arrived at the balloon launch site, around 6am. Our driver asked, “Who needs to wee?” We all raised our hands and he instructed everyone to go behind the truck where he said it was safe. He was right. It was. You have to remember that in the Serengeti, the animals are everywhere!
There’s only one company that offers hot air balloon safaris in the Serengeti and it’s run by an English guy named Nick. He has been running his company Serengeti Balloon Safaris here in the Serengeti for 11 years. Before that, he was in South Africa. As he should be, he’s very vigilant when it comes to safety and we had to board the 16 person basket while it was on its side, get fastened in and tuck our cameras under our jackets. We felt like astronauts preparing for liftoff.
I asked how high the balloon would climb (I have a slight fear of heights) and he said anywhere between a meter to a kilometer, depending on the winds. What I like about balloon safaris is that they typically don’t go too high – usually just above the treetops so you can view the animals down below.
We saw so many animals and within the first five minutes, we saw elephants, zebras, hippos, impalas, hyenas and two lionesses with a fresh kill. Being up in the chilly African air, seeing the sun rise and watching the animals below was surreal, an experience I will never forget.
Our ride lasted about an hour but Captain Nick said they can be anywhere between 35 minutes to 90 minutes, depending on the wind. And in the Serengeti, they don’t have altitude minimums like other parts of the world because there are no buildings, fences or power lines to obstruct a balloon’s journey.
The ride costs about $520 per person but includes transportation, a champagne toast, certificate of flight and a bush breakfast under an acacia tree with servers wearing traditional Zanzibar uniforms.
Good to Know: Interested in going on a safari? We have partnered with Cruise Planners which is a top rated travel agency to help plan your perfect trip. Contact Mike Gelman (1-800-724-5868) and tell him Johnny Jet sent you.