This article is part of a series; you will find the other episodes here:
Your Virtual Safari – Day 1 – Travelling to Africa
Your Virtual Safari – Day 2 – Arriving in Africa and onward travel
Your Virtual Safari – Day 3 – On the lookout for wildlife
Your Virtual Safari – Day 4 – Going to school and visiting the local village
Your Virtual Safari – Day 5 – From the city to the Ngorongo Crater
Day 6 – Up, up and away!
Well whaddya know- you’re six days into your virtual safari already. Today you have a very early start, so there’s just time for a coffee and some biscuits in the pre-dawn darkness while your guide gets the vehicle ready. Then you clamber aboard and head off to the launch site, crossing your fingers that the conditions will be perfect and your flight won’t be cancelled.
But you won’t be travelling by plane – something far more special awaits…
Serengeti Balloon Safari
For a completely different view – literally – of the Serengeti, a hot-air balloon ride is at the top of the list. As long as it’s not too windy, which is rare, flights take off just as the sun is rising and the experience is an amazing one.
You will be flying with Serengeti Balloon Safaris, a well-established company with thousands of happy guests. Upon reaching the launch area, you watch as the balloons are inflated and the excitement in the air is palpable.
A hot air balloon trip is something new for everyone in your group – and there can be few more spectacular places for a first timer than here in Africa.
After a safety briefing you join the rest of the passengers by the basket, which is lying on its side. You climb into your designated position and hang on, it all feels a bit odd as you are lying horizontally. But before long the last of the hot air is blasted into the balloon, it begins to rise and the basket tips over so that you are standing and can enjoy the smooth take-off.
It doesn’t take long to reach cruising altitude, and your pilot begins to steer the balloon forwards over the plains of the Serengeti as the sun continues to rise.
As mentioned, it is an amazing experience. To float silently across the savannah while the wildlife below is generally unaware that there are a bunch of tourists watching them from above gives you a competely new perspective on your safari.
Three balloons set off that morning, flying wherever the wind takes them and followed by ground vehicles some way behind.
Your pilot is highly skilled and able to fly the balloon very low, having fun scaring a few of his guests by skimming the top of the trees too.
We didn’t manage to avoid being spotted by this ever-observant hyena. But he didn’t seem particularly fazed by our passing.
Time for a video clip:
You land after travelling quite a few kilometres from your starting point. You come down softly but again it’s a bit weird when the balloon drags the basket onto its siude so that you can clamber out. All as per the briefing, however.
A vehicle is waiting to transport you to your bush breakfast. There you meet up with the passengers from the other balloons and take your place at one of the long tables with your pilot and basket buddies.
After the obligatory (traditional, apparently) champagne you are serves a hearty full English breakfast while swapping stories and tall tales with your tablemates.
It’s a morning you won’t forget and while it is an extra – and quite considerable – expense, it is definitely worth it and you won’t hesitate to recommend a Serengeti Balloon Safari to your friends and family.
Helicopter flight over the Okavango Delta
There are many other aerial experiences that you can enjoy on safari too. As well as the small plane flights such as the one we covered earlier, helicopter flights are also a popular way to see the land from the air.
In Botswana, for example, you can use a helicopter to reach your remote bush camp, or just for a scenic flight, and either way it’s great fun.
Here’s a video for you:
Afternoon game drive
But let’s get back to your virtual safari. Following the balloon trip you rejoin your guide and head back to camp for a siesta.
There’s time for a shower before you pack your gear and head off to your next accommodation. It’s a game drive rather than a simple transfer, however, and you have plenty of time to explore this part of the Serengeti.
The gravel road into the Serengeti from Ngorongoro is dry and dusty, and the plains are scorched. It’s quite a contrast from the crater.
You can see what the drive does to a vehicle – and it’s going to be a while before we reach camp and it can be washed. No problem though, as the pop-top roof provides all the vision you into teh need for wildlife spotting.
Onward into the Serengeti itself – an enigmatic name for a legendary place you have heard about since as far back as you remember.
Within minutes we spot a couple of hyenas by the side of the road. Had there been a kill here?
It looks likely, given the presence of these vultures too.
The jackal running away with a choice cut confirms our suspicions – but the “cleaners of the bush” have almost finished their work and there is little left to see. You can’t even tell what animal met its end here…
You meet our first vehicle but there is plenty of space for everyone. A couple of kilometres further on your guide informs you that we are approaching “Lions Rock” – a formation that pops out of the otherwise flat surface.
You soon realise that the name is an appropriate one.
On the other side of the road this beautiful lioness is somewhat more awake than her pals on the rock.
A large hippo announces the presence of water as you approach a river; you are lucky to see one of these creatures on dry ground during the day, too.
As the landscape becomes more green, the wildlife density increases.
But some animals, like this sleepy leopard, remain tricky to spot.
About an hour later, you have a really special experience. Your guide spots this cheetah in the shade and drives closer. With the engine off, you hear her calling and a faint response from the scrubland.
She finally locates one of her cubs – an adorable bundle of fluff.
After playing for a while for the audience, they head deeper into the grass. Definitely not an everyday sighting, this one.
This is a very brief clip of driving in this area, just to give you an idea of the vast open plains and the stunning weather.
After an afternoon of adventure and as the daylight begins to fade, you arrive at your camp for the night.
Siringit Serengeti Camp
Siringit is one of the absolute best camps in the Serengeti, the country and in fact Africa, in the opinion of the MD of The Grown-up Travel Company. With just 8 tents, it offers an intimate and totally luxurious experience.
It seems strange to call these “tents”, as you can see.
Not only do they contain everything you need, they are spacious and well-designed.
Okay they don’t have outdoor showers, but you won’t be complaining.
And what about that view from the terrace? Anyway, see for yourself:
The main tent has a fireplace, ample seating and a library. The restaurant tent next door is where you gather with the rest of the group to enjoy one of the best dinners of your time in Tanzania. You will be leaving Tanzania tomorrow, so it’s a late night enjoying the Serengeti while you can.
Day 7 awaits!