by Tamlin Wightman
on March 15, 2012
Up, Up and Away
Ever see the film Danny Deckchair? It’s an Aussie flick about a guy named Danny. Danny becomes famous overnight by tying bunches of balloons – the regular birthday party kind – to his deck chair and lifting off the ground. I saw this done several times in cartoons as a kid and planned one day to, like Danny, make the lift off, but on my pool lounger. Luckily, an offer of a hot air balloon trip came first. Hot air balloons are, without doubt, yards safer.
This is the first in our Up in the Air Series, in which we will be featuring blogs on the different aero-ventures you can get up to on safari in Africa, with Rhino Africa.
Hot Air Ballooning is one of those once-in-a-lifetime bucket list activities. It was for me, and I ticked it off flying over the Eastern Free State town of Clarens with views over the Maluti mountains. We lifted up into the sky with the flame bursting up into the giant balloon in the early morning. We caught the sun rise, rays peaking and sparkling through the rows of clouds above the mountains.
The wind fell at once stage and so did our basket – making for a thrilling landing in some trees surrounded by a field of cattle. Then it was up, up and away, with the Golden Gate National Park in the distance. With the final landing the balloon dropped slowly to the ground, taking its time to fully deflate. I quickly jumped out of the basket as our, you could call him, flight captain organised champagne and orange juice. I ran into the womb of the balloon, which was on its side with still at least three metres high from the top to the bottom. Inside it was like a kaleidoscopic circus tent. I didn’t want the day to end.
Where To Hot Air Balloon
There are several lodges in southern and eastern Africa that offer hot air ballooning. It’s a great addition to a safari and offers great and unique views in different game reserves – with the teeming wildlife and beautiful landscapes below. From the Kruger Park to the Serengeti, South Africa to Namibia, there are plenty different sights to take in.
These are some of our top recommendations:
Singita has introduced balloon safaris at its Grumeti Reserve in Tanzania. The one-hour safaris can accommodate between four and eight passengers, with options available for larger groups. The flight begins at 05h30 when guests leave their camp for a pre-dawn 20-minute game drive from the camp to the balloon launch pad in the reserve. Stay at Singita Faru Faru Lodge, Singita Sabora Tented Camp, and/or Singita Sasakwa Lodge.
What to expect
“You will meet your pilot, receive a briefing and watch in eager anticipation as the balloon is inflated. At dawn, the balloon takes off, rising as the sun is coming up and floating in whichever direction the winds of the morning are moving. The pilot can precisely control the altitude of the balloon – sometimes at treetop height, sometimes lower, offering a unique perspective and great photographic opportunities of the wildlife below. At other times the pilot will ascend to 1000 feet or more in order to view the enormity and wonderful panorama of Singita Grumeti Reserves. From time to time he may put more heat into the balloon with the powerful whisper burners. In between these burns there is absolute silence…apart from the natural sounds of the Serengeti landscape.” – Singita
South Africa & Kruger National Park
Stay in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve on the western border of the Kruger National Park and go on breathtaking hot air balloon rides over the 10 00 hectares of the private Ulusaba Portfolio. Stay at either Ulusaba Rock Lodge, Ulusaba Safari Lodge or Ulusaba Cliff Lodge .
- Lion Sands River Lodge and Lion Sands Ivory Lodge – Take a hot air balloon trip at dawn over the Sabie River Valley in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve
- Oliver’s Restaurant and Lodge – is a charming and sophisticated hotel overlooking the White River Golf Course in Mpumalanga. A short drive away is the Kruger National Park and the many other attractions that make the Panoramic Route an almost mandatory safari stopover.
- Cybele Forest Lodge and Health Spa – Cybele is situated between White River and Hazyview, in the heart of Mpumalanga on three hundred acres of African paradise, living forest, mountains and meadows. It is 40 km from the Kruger National Park and very close to Private Game Reserves in the Sabi Sands.
- Kirawira Camp – Hop on a hot air balloon and treat yourself to a champagne breakfast as you sail over the Serengeti National Park.
- Perry’s Bridge Hollow Boutique Hotel – In the sleepy town of Hazyview, Perry’s makes a fantastic base from which to explore the surrounding area on the Panorama Route including the Kruger National Park and the canyons of the Mpumalanga Escarpment. What better way to see it than from above.
- La Plume Guesthouse – Take a balloon flight in Outdshoorn over this beautiful stretch of the Garden Route.
- Governors’ IL Moran Camp – For the ultimate experience you can take a balloon safari to Lake Victoria here in the Masai Mara Game Reserve.
- Mfangano Island Camp – Here on Lake Victoria you’d do very well to combine a safari in an award-winning Masai Mara camp with a balloon ride across the plains to the shore of the Lake and a short boat transfer to the island.
- Sarova Mara Camp is just outside the Masai Mara Game Reserve in south-western Kenya and on the border of Tanzania’s Serengeti Game Reserve. Balloon safaris can be arranged at an additional cost.
- Kichwa Tembo Bateleur Camp – Balloon Safaris can be arranged for guests here in the western section of the Masai Mara.
- Mara Serena Safari Lodge – The lodge has one of the best locations in Kenya’s Masai Mara Reserve: on top of thickly vegetated hills overlooking the Mara River and the game-studded Mara Plains. A range of activities fuel the wildlife fever – don’t miss the balloon safari
- Tswalu Kalahari Game Reserve – Owned by the Oppenheimer family, this is South Africa’s largest private game reserve. This is truly one special place to go hot air ballooning – over the vast open expanses of the Kalahari desert landscape and the unique wildlife. Stay at either The Motse or Tarkuni, or try the new Malori Sleep Out Deck.
- Kulala Wilderness Camp – The camp is in a 21,000ha private reserve with a gate into the Namib Naukluft Park, the focal point of which is the Sesriem Canyon and Sossusvlei area. Day trips into the Naukluft mountains and early morning ballooning are a great optional extra.
- Sossusvlei Desert Lodge – The Namib – known as ‘The Living Desert’ – is a world of vast space, endless horizons, dramatic desert scapes and jagged mountain heights. Led by Sossusvlei’s expert rangers and naturalists, explore the desert by hot-air balloon.
- Mowani Mountain Camp – Adventures and activities available at Mowani surpass those of most African safari’s, and include trips in a hot air balloon. The balloon will give you a bird’s eye view of this beautiful landscape in the Aba-Huab Valley where there is a variety of wildlife to be seen, with the possibility catching a glimpse of the elusive desert elephant or of one of the handful black rhinos left in the world.
- Little Kulala Camp – Have champagne breakfast balloon flights over the desert in the Namib Naukluft Park.
- Kulala Desert Lodge – For more unmissable champagne breakfast balloon flights over the Namibian desert, try this lodge.
Experience hot air ballooning
Go on your own hot air balloon safari! We’ll help you plan the perfect African itinerary with destinations and lodges to suit your needs, interests and budget, and includes hot air ballooning, whether it is South Africa and the Kruger, Namibia, Tanzania or Kenya you prefer.
Contact one of our expert travel consultants for more information and to start planning and start ticking off that bucket list!