Few words adequately describe the experience of floating through the sky above thousands of wildebeests, zebras and antelopes below – the Serengeti balloon safari is simply a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Nothing quite illuminates the seemingly endless plains of the untouched wilderness like the unparallel view from the clouds.
The highly experienced pilots can choose to either skim along the tops of the trees, navigate the winding riverbeds or stay low to the dew-covered plains. Often the balloon cruises effortlessly just metres above hundreds of antelope and predators alike.
Although it is not a budget-friendly option, going on a balloon ride above the Serengeti puts the cherry on top of what is already a dream holiday destination. Balloon safari companies offer world-class service and guests can rest easy knowing they are in good hands.
With a sunrise or sunset lift-off, you are guaranteed more than just jaw-dropping views, but the best chance of spotting animals that are at their most active during the cooler parts of the day.
Serengeti Balloon Safari Conditions
A hot air balloon ride in the Serengeti almost always comes with gentle winds that sweep over the plains and predictable weather patterns – making most days in the Serengeti a perfect day to take the trip.
Along with an exhilarating flight, most companies offer a glass of champagne as the balloon settles back down to earth. Guests then continue to a sunrise breakfast on the plains of the Serengeti under the ancient acacia trees.
Serengeti Balloon Safari FAQs
Where Do the Balloon Safaris Take Place?
The best location for safari wildlife viewing varies depending on the pattern of the Great Migration.
Flights take off daily from four different sites across the Serengeti National Park. The launch site in the central Serengeti close to Seronera operates all year round. A separate site in the Ndutu area is operational from December to March.
The Ndutu area offers arguably the greatest chance of witnessing the Great Migration from the air, as thousands of wildebeests and zebras reliably gather in this area from December to March.
The dry season from June to October sees balloons take off over the Western and Northern Serengeti in search of wildlife. The migration is mobile and a level of luck is involved in catching a glimpse of the wide-open plains swathed in antelope.
Is Serengeti Balloon Safari Dangerous?
Soaring high above the wildebeests down below can be a nerve-wracking experience for those with a fear of heights. Passengers who have undertaken a hot air balloon ride, however, can attest to the fact that in the end, their fear of falling was unfounded.
Registered balloon safari companies are fully licensed and annually inspected by the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority. It is also mandatory for passengers to be strapped in with a passenger seat belt.
The balloons are flown by meticulous pilots who run through rigorous pre-flight safety checks. The pilots will also analyse the conditions and wind speed before deciding to take off or not.
How Long Do You Fly?
Most trips last for about an hour. A different course is taken for each flight, depending on the conditions and wind direction, meaning the landing point for each flight is largely unknown beforehand.
There are a few requirements that passengers must be aware of before booking a balloon safari in the Serengeti. All passengers must be able to use their arms to hold onto rope handles during take-off and landing. They must be able to bend their knees and be mobile enough to climb in and out of the basket.
It is also important to take note that potential passengers weighing more than 265lbs, 19 stone or 120kg may be charged for two people. The trips are not suitable for pregnant people and people with heart problems.
How to Prepare
Guests are picked up from their lodges very early in the morning. The transfer from the Seronera area leaves at 5.30 am, but if you are in the surrounding areas be prepared to be picked up from 4.00 am.
Passengers are recommended to bring with them a hat for protection not only from the sun but from the intense heat of the burners. Although the burner creates heat, the temperature is often cool in the morning, so a jacket is recommended. Long-sleeved tops and long trousers are necessary, and cameras and binoculars are pretty essential.
How Much Does a Balloon Safari Cost
Prices range from $550 per person and upwards, depending on whether you are joining a group or flying privately.
The price is generally all-inclusive with pickup from your lodgings and in most cases with all snacks and extras. The only thing not included is park entry fees. The price does, however, include the TANAPA ballooning fee of US$40.
Why is Ballooning So Expensive?
Balloons have a relatively short life span. Most balloons are ‘retired’ after about 850 hours to minimise potential faults. The balloon itself can cost upwards of US$100,000 and a large amount of fuel is used to get the balloons in the air.
Balloon safaris take place in remote locations, so the logistics are time and resource consuming. A crew of roughly 5-10 people is required to get the balloon airborne and the concession fees for each passenger are substantial. A lot of payment in the park goes towards conservation funds.
Best Time to Balloon Over the Serengeti
The weather patterns in the Serengeti are largely predictable and the climate is of such a stable nature that almost every day boasts perfect conditions.
The best and most popular time to visit East Africa and Tanzania specifically is generally from mid-June to October. As East Africa’s dry season, this time of year has the most predictable weather and provides ideal safari conditions.
While early mornings and evenings might be cold, the temperature during this season is fairly predictable. Thermometer readings are often around 23°C/73°F, reaching a high of 28°C/82°F in the coastal areas.
The dry landscapes of Tanzania and Kenya are transformed into a lush, green wonderland in the wet season. Temperatures increase during this period and usually range between 24°C/75°F and 27°C/81°F, reaching highs of 30°C/86°F along the coast. There are two types of rainy periods in this season:
Short rains (November-December): Afternoon thunderstorms are often expected to take place.
Long rains (March-April): The long rains usher in the peak of the wet season, which is typically marked by hot and humid conditions.
Although it might seem natural to avoid a flight in the rainy seasons this can actually be an ideal time for a balloon flight. The rain usually comes in the late afternoon and evening, so a morning flight most often brings with it bright and crisp conditions. The gentle winds also make for the smoothest balloon flights possible.
Known as the ‘green seasons’ the great migration passes through the central Serengeti in these seasons. The verdant, rich foliage and dust-free landscape make for ideal game viewing from above.
In the eventuality that poor weather does come into play on the morning of your flight, balloon safari companies offer either a full refund or a free of charge rescheduling of your adventure.
Please Note: It is highly recommended to book early as flights fill up fast, especially in the high season.