Everyone knows that you can’t visit Africa without experiencing a safari. But if you’re a frequent traveler to the country, you may have already journeyed on a few of them. So instead of jumping on another jeep to see your favorite wildlife, how about trying a hot air balloon instead? Adding to the appeal of seeing beautiful, wild and intimidating game up-close-and-personal, these safaris are one of the coolest ways to travel through the reserves. Each tour also includes a full breakfast at the end of your flight and a Champagne toast (win!). If you're brave enough to try this experience out, here are five of our favorite hot air balloon safaris to check out:
Photo Credit: African Travel Gateway
Cradle of Humankind (Near Johannesburg)
To start your hot air balloon safari, you will be picked up at your luxury hotel (TBD) in the early morning hours, before being transferred to the balloon launch site inside the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve. As the balloon gets filled with hot air to prepare for takeoff, coffee, tea and biscuits will be served to start the day. Drifting through the reserves and sometimes outside of them, guests will get to witness some of the ‘Big Five’ during their three- to four-hour flights. Back on land, toast to a day of game viewing with Champagne and orange juice. A full English breakfast is provided at the lodge following your flight. Rates start at around $580 for two on a private balloon.
Photo Credit: Four Seasons Serengeti
Four Seasons Serengeti
For guests already staying at the Four Seasons Serengeti hotel, you have access to a hot air balloon offered through the property. The sunrise flight over Serengeti lasts around an hour and starts with a quick grab-n-go breakfast. Inhabiting the region are gazelles, zebras, blue wildebeests, buffalos, lions and spotted hyenas. After exploring the land from above, you’ll end with a bush breakfast and Champagne toast. Of course, when that adventure ends, you can retreat to the comforts of your five-star resort and lounge by the free-form infinity pool overlooking the plains or enjoy a cocktail at the Maji Bar and Terrace. Hot air balloon rides are $540 per person. Price does not include transfers to and from the balloon site. From the lodge it is $75 per person in a shared vehicle or $230 in a private car.
Photo Credit: Serengeti Balloon Safari
Serengeti Balloon Safari
At dawn, you’ll meet your Serengeti Balloon Safari pilot as your balloon inflates and will go through a safety briefing before taking your spot inside the balloon. As you rise above the clouds, the wind will be your guide, at times allowing the balloon to climb to over 1000 feet or down closer to the crowd for front-row game viewing. The Serengeti spans 12,000 square miles and lies in north Tanzania. It is host to the largest mammal migration in the world. Following your landing and Champagne toast, your guide will treat you to an Out of Africa breakfast. Served under an acacia tree in the bush, the meal will be a gourmet affair with white linen tablecloths, bone china and Sheffield cutlery. Rates begin at around USD $539 per person.
Photo Credit: Game Watchers/Video Credit: Air Ventures
Game Watchers Safari
Set on the plains of the Great Rift Valley, Game Watchers Safari takes off around 6:15 a.m. with an in-air flight time of one hour. As you travel over the 650-acre Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya, you may get to witness plenty of wildlife. The Mara lands are known for their annual Wildebeest migration (June to October) and are also home to elephants, zebras, cheetahs, hyenas, jackals, lions, leopards, buffalo, gazelle and warthogs. While over the bush, the balloon may get as high as 15,000 feet (if desired), so be sure to keep all valuables secured to your body. Upon landing, enjoy a Champagne breakfast. Prices available upon request, and accommodations at the nearby Porini Lion Camp or Mara Porini Camp are recommended.
Air Ventures’ balloon safaris launch from the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve located within a world heritage site, The Cradle of Humankind. From Johannesburg it is about a 30-min drive and 40-min from Pretoria. As with most of the excursions, coffee, tea and biscuits will be served while the balloon inflates. At sunrise, the one-hour flight begins, winding its way across the countryside in search of game. Exclusive flights can be arranged in one of the smaller balloons which only allow for two passengers and a pilot. On this trip, guests can sip on Champagne while in the air, making for a very romantic experience. Back on land, passengers will receive a certificate celebrating their completed ride and will be treated to a full English breakfast. Prices available upon request.