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You arrive in the hours of darkness just prior dawn. The sounds of the Serengeti are still the sounds of the night shift. A hyena whoops and others reply. A bushbaby screams in the distance. A male lion roars in short multiple roars as he smells a receptive lioness off in the darkness.

Then, a bright flame and forceful roar breaks the sounds of the African darkness as the big hot-air balloon begins to inflate. Impressively, the filling of the huge balloon does not take long and soon the towering balloon is only confined to earth by tethered lines. The pilot boards the basket followed by guests, who quickly board the basket with great anticipation of what soon will happen…the gently lifting of the balloon as it defies gravity. And as the balloon rises, the sun also rises and gradually illuminates the balloon. A gorgeous glow comes over the Serengeti.

First, the tops of the tallest acacias are brightened, and in one acacia a number of vultures have their wings spread as they are eager to warm themselves after a chilly night. As the balloon ascends, the vastness of the plains becomes very apparent. There are animals scattered about, some in small herds, some in family groups while others are entirely by themselves. There is a herd of elephants moving towards the river. A few cows have young calves, and thus the herd is moving slowly to ensure that the youngsters can keep pace. A lone giraffe is browsing on acacias having to stretch the full length of its neck to get to some leaves as the browse line is already at giraffe height from previous browsing by these tallest of African animals. There are also a few hippos returning to the Mara River, having wandered a little too far from the river in their nightly foraging and they did not make it back before the sun shone brightly. Everywhere there are impala, zebra, wildebeest and the occasional topi antelope, many of which are perched on termite mounds to get a better view of their surroundings.  Each time the burner is shut down, the only sounds are the sounds made by the myriad of wildlife below and by the “oooos” and “ahhhhhs” of excited guests within the basket of the balloon.  A hot-air balloon safari is a magnificent way to learn a little more about Africa. And to top it off, a Champagne breakfast mysteriously awaits upon landing…often many miles from your take off point.

Did you add a hot-air balloon ride to your East Africa safari? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!


Naturalist Greg Greer is a favorite among IE travelers, and has gained a reputation for his friendliness and good humor, along with his incomparable knowledge of natural history, photos and articles have been widely published in books and magazines, including Georgia Outdoor News, Bird Watcher’s Digest, Alabama Outdoor News, Riversedge and Southern Wildlife.