Since the very first time I went to the Serengeti when I was 12, I have dreamt about going on a Balloon Safari. It literally has sat at the very top spot on my bucketlist for the last (almost) 20 years. Little did I know that a few weeks ago, I would get to live out this dream and it would blow me away more than I could ever have imagined.
Waking up at 4:15 a.m. at Sayari, Northern Serengeti, was a little shock to the system but in light of the impending adventure seemed definitely manageable. A cup of steaming hot, very strong, Tanzanian coffee did the trick and we were off – out into the darkness to navigate the bumpy road to our launch point.
On arrival we were immediately overwhelmed by the sheer size, colour and magnificence of our balloon that was currently being filled with air and hoisted up to standing position. Serkan, our Turkish pilot was fully kitted in his pilot uniform, badges, hat and all. After a very quick safety briefing we clambered into the basket AKA “The Titanic” got ourselves comfortable and made sure we had somewhere to hold on!
Serkan had been ballooning all his life as he had grown up in Cappadoccia where he said, “ at least 100 balloons fill the sky everyday.” It was there that he learned his skill for ballooning and decided to bring it to this magical land so that he could do what he loved in the place he loved most, the African bush. “Here it’s better because not only is it beautiful but there are lots of animals,” said Serkan.
At the very point where the Sand River meets the Mara River, Serkan fired up the burner and before we knew it we had drifted way up into the early morning sky. The feeling of weightlessness, the sense of space and freedom and the incredible perspective that the height gave us rendered us speechless for a good few minutes. With the sun peeking up over the horizon beyond, the darkness turning to light and the shimmer of gold on the savannah below… the beauty was more than overwhelming.
We followed game path upon game path, which are so much more visible from the air! This criss-crossed maze of winding routes led us to zebra, wildebeest, elephants, tiny scrub hares as well as a lovely male lion wandering an open plain, such incredible sightings from the air. This completely unique perspective gave way to a whole other level of appreciation. The bush tells a much more complete story from the sky… if only we could stop time and suspend ourselves there for the entire day. Oh the things we would see!
Unable to manoeuvre direction, we were totally at the whim of the gentle morning breeze, which very expertly guided us along the Mara River. Up and down we went… dropping in to check on the hippos and the crocodiles as they awoke from their slumber. Some big wide-mouthed, hippo yawns welcomed us, as well as the Fish Eagle’s morning calls and the gurgling of the rapids below.
We drifted North back towards the Mara River, the sun was now high in the sky and sky blue as can be. Ironically it felt like we’d been up there for years but at the same time as if we’d only just lifted off. Our landing was not the smoothest, to say the least, but a memorable one for sure. A basket of laughs, we dismounted still in awe of the magical experience we had just encountered and so sad that it was all over.
As if this was not enough we were greeted to a 5-star Champagne Breakfast laid out impeccably on the banks of the Mara River. Muesli, fruit, coffee, eggs and bacon, the whole bang shoot… there it was… fit for a king! What a way to start the morning… a sunrise balloon flight over the Serengeti and then a delightful breakfast shared with a pod of hippo. Which brings me to a VERY pressing question… when can I go back? #eastafrica #safari
Soon, we will be bringing you only the very best in luxury safari accommodation in East Africa so watch this space!