The Serengeti is one of the most incredible ecosystems in the world. The scene of great migrations and incredible wildlife is one of the most popular safari destinations in Tanzania. After spending three days exploring Serengeti National Park by Jeep, I booked a trip with Serengeti Balloon Safari to enjoy a sunrise flight to see the perspective of the park from a hot air balloon. On this tour, you enjoy a one-hour sunrise flight with dawn colors and wildlife sightings before enjoying a delicious outdoor breakfast.
In this blog post, I will share with you all of the details about the tour including prices, the best time of year, and what you can expect to see as well as my photos and personal experience from my Serengeti Balloon Safari. I’ll also include a short video made by Pema during the sunrise and balloon flight.
All of the images in this blog were taken during the hot air balloon safari. It was quite difficult in the low light and the moving hot air balloon to capture all of the wildlife but I did my best to keep my 400mm zoom lens as steady as possible to show you all of the incredible wildlife sightings we had such as lions, wildebeest, elephants, hyenas, zebras, buffalo, jackals, elands, gazelle, antelope, eagles, and hawks just to name a few.
SERENGETI HOT AIR BALLOON SAFARI COSTS
The Serengeti Hot Air Balloon experience costs 600 USD per person and includes the following:
- Early pick-up from your camp or lodge
- Transfer to the launch site for a sunrise take-off (the guide will spot animals along the way so it’s a bonus safari time)
- 1-hour hot air balloon flight
- Champagne toast on landing
- Transfer to the launch site for breakfast (we saw lions along the way!)
- Full English breakfast
- *The price does not include park entry fees and assumes you are already inside the park and have paid the fees.
I actually found the link slightly discounted on the booking site GetYourGuide, which is a reliable booking service, one of the biggest in the world and this specific activity has lots of positive reviews. They give you free cancellation and instant booking confirmation so it’s super easy through the GetYourGuide site.
Book your ticket online now: Serengeti Hot Air Balloon Safari
BEST TIME OF YEAR FOR A SERENGETI HOT AIR BALLOON SAFARI EXPERIENCE
The best times for a hot air balloon safari in Serengeti National Park are very similar to the best time to visit the park in general. From January to February or from June through September are the best seasons to visit, although it is best to plan your trip around the movement of The Great Migration. The winter is the best time to see the migrating herd in Southern Serengeti, while in the summer and autumn the Western Corridor and Northern Serengeti are the best places for viewing the migratory herds.
January-February: The winter is the best time to visit Southern Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. This region is often ignored by tourists due to its lack of wildlife during much of the year, which is a mistake. The short rains in November draw the herd back towards its breeding grounds. This means that during the winter, these vast and plentiful grasslands are where you will find huge populations with wildebeest, zebras, and, of course, predators. February is also the calving season, which is a good time for viewing young wildlife and also when predators are likely to snatch some easy prey.
March-May: (When I visited) The Spring is the wet season, which scares away most tourists. However, you can find lower prices for safaris and lodging. In mid-march, we saw herds and predators every day so it is a great time to visit in the shoulder season.
June-September: During the summer, The Great Migration heads north. In the early months of summer, you will find the herd near the Grumeti River in the park’s Western Corridor. Watching the herd’s unfortunate meeting with the crocodile population during the crossing can make for an experience of a lifetime.
October-December: Short rains signal The Great Migration’s return to the grasslands of the south.
HOW LONG IS THE SERENGETI HOT AIR BALLOON SAFARI
The flight lasts for 60 minutes but the whole experience takes a few hours. First, you need to get picked up from your lodge and taken to the launch site. On our drive in the dark, we spotting lots of wildlife including multiple hyenas. You can’t actually do a night safari in the Serengeti so this drive was a unique experience in itself and we were able to spot some animals that are otherwise impossible to see during the day as they are nocturnal. After the 60-minute flight, we landed in the plains and had a glass of champagne. We then drove to the breakfast site but stopped multiple times along the way to have an incredible close encounter with two male lions and then an entire lion pride who were feasting on a zebra. The breakfast then lasted an hour before we were transferred back to the lodge.
MY EXPERIENCE ON MY SERENGETI HOT AIR BALLOON SAFARI
The night before our Serengeti hot air balloon experience, our driver actually drove all the way out to our lodge. We were staying about an hour from the launch site so to save himself the early start the next morning, Steven our driver came and slept the night at our lodge.
The next morning we set off at 4:20 am from the lodge and began the bumpy drive through the bush on a route that often looked more bush than a road. Steven was wide awake and used the lights of the vehicle to spot African Hare, Spring Hare, and owls amongst other nocturnal animals. We also saw quite a large number of hyenas, zebras, and wildebeest who were in full-flight.
Just as the sky began to glow over the mountain range on the horizon, we arrived at the launch site. It was a spectacularly clear morning with light winds so it was perfect for the balloon flight. We hung about watching the colors change in the sky as the team began to set up and inflate the giant balloon.
After a quick briefing, the balloon had a few final adjustments, and then we all clambered into the basket. Unlike my other balloon experiences, we actually got into the balloon while the basket was on the side. The pilot then began pumping heat into the balloon and it slowly rose to be standing upright. It was quite a funny moment as all eleven passengers lay on their back crammed in the balloon before it took off.
The start of our flight was very calm as we softly floated just meters above the ground. The sun began to burst through a low layer of clouds to create a golden glow as we gradually increased our altitude.
As I looked out over the plain, I wasn’t quite sure what this flight would entail. It seemed to be a wide-open expanse without too much to see in terms of landscapes. Compared to my fights in Cappadocia and the outback of Australia, the landscapes and scenery were not going to be the main attraction on this flight. In the early moments of the flight, we spotted a few gazelle, eagles, and some hyenas. However, it was the aerial perspective of the well-defined animal tracks that was quite unique to witness from directly above.
After a few kilometers, we began to spot some herds in the distance and one of the passengers even spotted a pair of healthy-looking lions. Given the distance, my photos aren’t incredibly close or sharp. Most people didn’t take too many photos as often the wildlife is quite small above. However, we did cruise up and down in altitude, often just meters above the ground. The other difficulty in taking photos is that you are moving quite fast and the early morning isn’t quite offering enough light but I did my best to capture most of the wildlife as we floated on by.
There were several huge herds of wildebeest that stormed by, accompanied by their good allies the zebra. Lions were waiting ominously close to several of the herds but didn’t seem too interested in a morning snack. Most of the animals trotted away from the incoming balloon and seemed quite unsure what it was but we never came in too close to any animals and most of the tighter shots are at 400mm on a zoom lens.
Finding a landing spot proved to be quite difficult. When there are apex predators and herds of animals, you need to choose carefully. Just as we were thinking about landing, we spotted a herd of elephants in the distance. Our pilot decided to float just a little further to catch a glimpse of the mighty herd of elephants. As we approached, one brave matriarch stood her ground as the rest of the herd scurried off into the distance.
The pilot announced the landing was incoming and we all ducked down, held on tight, and survived a safe landing although we did slide along the grass for a good ten to fifteen seconds. That type of landing is quite normal as there is no braking system on a hot air balloon. We all bundled out and we were greeted by the crew with a glass of champagne and a toast to a safe and fantastic flight.
Back into the Jeep, we headed to begin the transfer to breakfast. Along the way, our guide spotted a number of lions, which turned out to be the best lion sightings of our entire nine-day safari experience in Tanzania. I already showed you those lion images above but it was truly an amazing encounter as the strong male lions strolled past our vehicle.
The breakfast was under a beautiful Acacia tree and we were served a full English cook-up with bacon, eggs, sausage, fruits, and coffee. All the while some inquisitive giraffes looked over from the nearby trees. It truly was an incredible morning and would highly recommend a Serengeti Hot Air Balloon Safari for anyone looking to find a new perspective over the Serengeti.
Book your ticket online now: Serengeti Hot Air Balloon Safari