Guide to the Best African Hot Air Balloon Safaris

Hot air ballooning is becoming a very popular option on safaris in Africa. A hot air balloon ride truly gives you a “once in a lifetime” experience that will never be forgotten. It is so completely different to anything else you may have experienced before in both sensation and spectacle. Combining this with the opportunity to explore the stunning African landscape and throw in some game viewing from close at hand and you have all the ingredients to a magical adventure.

The ride is so quiet that it gives you the perfect opportunity to see animals up close and en masse due to the overhead perspective you get from a balloon. You can truly see for miles and miles and soak up the vastness of the African plains. With the only noise being the gentle hiss of the gas burners the peace and quiet gives you the chance to just enjoy the moment and marvel at all you can see before you.

Most tour operators offer trips like this and they follow fairly similar schedules. They tend to start very early in the morning, usually before sunrise, when the air is at its coldest and therefore its calmest. You will be served tea or coffee while you wait and watch the balloonists prepare the hot air balloon for take-off. Once you take off up into the clear African sky you will gently drift across the plains with the prevailing winds. Your pilot will decide the height for flying as necessary and they will be able to drop lower for close up game viewing or rise up high over the tree canopies. The actual flight itself usually takes around an hour and when you land a ground crew will collect you and drive you back to the launch site where you will enjoy a full champagne breakfast. Then finally before heading back to your safari lodge or camp you will be awarded a certificate as a memento of your hot air balloon flight from the balloon pilot.

In Kenya balloon flights are usually over the magnificent Masai Mara National Reserve. The Mara is the northernmost part of the spectacular Serengeti-Mara ecosystem, and is famous for being home to the awe-inspiring annual migration where millions of animals are on the move at the same time. The migration is a great time to go on a balloon trip as it gives you a great perspective on the size and speed of the migration that you just can’t get from the ground. The rest of the year is equally as good with scores of other wildlife on view including lions, cheetahs, elephants, rhinos, hippos, and crocodiles.

Also you can do hot air ballooning across Tanzania and the Serengeti and also South Africa; the Winelands, near Cape Town and over the Kruger National Park are some of the most popular options.

By Paul Hickey-Fry