Up, Up and Away!

I had not done a hot air balloon flight before and decided that the Serengeti was an ideal location to try it. So I treated myself and booked a sunrise flight along with a few others in our Acacia group. We had to get up just after 4am and my first surprise of the morning was being told by one of the group that there was a herd of buffalo loitering in the darkness right near the ablutions block. Nothing like a buffalo in close proximity to get me moving quickly in the morning! We were picked up from our campsite and taken to the hot air balloon centre where we were briefed on ‘boarding procedure’ in time for a sunrise take-off.

I had never seen a hot air balloon close up and didn’t realise how big they were, or that we had to climb into our allotted two-man compartment with the balloon on its side! As you can imagine, it wasn’t an elegant procedure but I ended up successfully wedged in, arm muscles killing me as I held on for dear life, and making small talk with a stranger to whom I was getting far closer than I’d have liked! After what seemed like an age, a roaring sound indicated the flame was lit above us and we were deafened and singed for a few minutes before the basket jolted, shook and began to lift upright.

We took off at speed and soared above the Serengeti as the sun rose. It was a beautiful, tranquil sight and I felt privileged to see the day breaking from this marvellous viewpoint. The pilot talked us through how the balloon was controlled and deftly slowed, accelerated or dipped to vary our flight. Seeing the vast plains stretching away to the horizon in every direction certainly made us appreciate the scale of the Serengeti. We spotted several giraffes below us and also startled a herd of elephants which started stampeding away from the balloon. I particular enjoyed sweeping down so low that we were clipping the tops of trees!

The morning was topped off by a delicious champagne breakfast served under (a very apt) Acacia tree. The fresh fruit platter and cooked breakfast at waited tables was our first taste of extravagant luxury in a while, and made our balloon experience even more worthwhile!

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