Asante Sana Serengeti


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Africa » Tanzania » North » Serengeti National Park
October 17th 2019
Published: December 12th 2019
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Hippos from the BalloonHippos from the BalloonHippos from the Balloon

We buzzed these guys so low you could smell them...one of my favourite pics...
After successfully not getting eaten our first night we had to be up bright and early for another must-do on this adventure: Serengeti Balloon Ride...oh yeah, vowed if/when I ever got here that I would not miss doing this, so at the tender hour of 5am we woke up and with some trepidation made our way in the dark to the toilets, scanning the surroundings for beady eyes scoping us out...none to speak of fortunately...did however get to see this amazing storm way off in the distance, the flashes of lightning in the clouds were spectacular...

It was just the two of us and a new amigo Michael from our group that would be doing the balloon ride, and sure enough at the appointed hour we could see the headlights of a jeep approaching to pick us up...took about half an hour to get to the launch site, and on the way we came up beside a herd of elephants by the side of the road that seemed to be sleeping, they were really eerie in the dark with their greys set against the black of night, very cool...

Arrived to see the two balloons being prepped, and after a quick briefing by our pilot we clambered into the basket and awaited takeoff (baskets were on their side so you had to hoist yourself in to a lying-on-your-back position, attach the safety harness and hope for the best...haha...). Gentle breeze that morning so we just tipped up and away we went...we were 15 plus the pilot, the basket was divided into four compartments with the pilot in the middle, so it was just the three of us in our own little section which was nice...

Settled in for a lazy drift over the Serengeti, very serene and I was amazed at the control the pilot had on the balloon: He would turn it periodically so we all had a chance to look in all directions, and he would alter the height we were cruising at from a couple of thousand feet down to what seemed like ten feet or so...in fact at one point we buzzed a pod of hippos, and as we were so low you could smell them and hear them barking, they were a little cranky being disturbed at this early hour...incredible...

A nice meander across the plains and managed to see some wildlife: lions, gazelles, elephants and a giraffe I think...cruising over some pretty sparse terrain so not a ton of animals but the vistas were still cool nonetheless...we were up for about an hour and fifteen minutes before we gently touched down on the savannah, with the metal skids on the side of the basket I had assumed a tip-over and drag but no, just plopped down and we were done (the wind was below a certain amount of knots which enabled this apparently). Gracefully stumbled out, took some pics and it was off to celebrate, champagne time!

Great speech from one of the pilots about the origins of the post-flight champagne, some toasts and then on to another spot for breakfast: Full English! Two long tables on the Serengeti with full linens and silverware, hosts all done up in traditional garb to greet us, pretty amazing...breakfast was tasty, the champagne kept flowing and by the time we were done and heading back to meet the rest of our gang I had a pretty good buzz going...all before 10am...lol...

Our two jeeps rolled in just after we got back to the office, they had done an early morning safari while we were floating above, now it was off for the rest of the day searching out more animals...again a great day bopping around, saw all sorts of elephants and lions, including one lioness retrieving a carcass from a wake of vultures (learned all sorts of animal "group" names while there), and stuffing it under a tree in front of us...more gazelles and giraffes, and then pulled up to a tree where four lionesses were napping and cleaning each other, we were so close you could almost rub their bellies...almost...a cheetah in the high grass was spotted on our late afternoon drive back to camp, and the giraffes greeted us again as we arrived, very civilized...

Long day so beers were required, handful of us hopped into a jeep with Moses and made our way to the local "tavern"...great hang over a pint with some locals, picked up the rest of the beers for the folks back at camp and then headed back...not much to report that evening, pints were refreshing hanging out with everyone, some dinner and then Michael and I closed out the night with some scotch and lies...haha...

We had one more safari the following morning
Lazy LeopardLazy LeopardLazy Leopard

...so glad I got to see another one, absolutely beautiful...
(after once again not getting eaten the previous night, success!) on our way to the Ngorongoro Crater, and the usual suspects came out to say their goodbyes: lions, elephants, giraffes, hyenas, hippos, ostriches...have to admit that the safaris were starting to wear thin for me, still enjoyed being out there but having not seen anything really new in a few days it felt like it was time to move onto something else...but once again the Serengeti delivered!

Firstly with a family of cheetahs that were scoping out a couple of gazelles, they moved past us into the grass and were kind of hidden from view so we moved the jeep to get a better vantage point when all of a sudden the four cheetahs bolted, the chase was on! Mama cheetah took the gazelle down, but much to our surprise the gazelle escaped with one of the other younger cheetahs in hot pursuit...this went on a couple of times and our guide explained that the mother was teaching her youngsters to hunt, I'm sure the gazelle was thrilled...put up a good fight but in the end mama cheetah had the final say and that was the last we saw of the poor gazelle...amazing experience though...again not so much for the gazelle...

Secondly I had been wanting to see one more leopard, and after checking out several rock formations they were known to frequent lo and behold there was one napping in a tree, oh yeah! Absolutely beautiful beast, a nice bookend to the tour having seen one our first day in Samburu Kenya and then this day being one of our final safaris...awesome finale all around...

Sadly our time had come to leave, and while I was glad to be moving again I was sorry on some levels it was over...the Serengeti was one of my main reasons for visiting East Africa and it turned out to be even more magnificent than I had expected, it has certainly left an indelible mark on me...


Additional photos below
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Gettin' ReadyGettin' Ready
Gettin' Ready

Balloon ride over the Serengeti about to get under way...
View from the BalloonView from the Balloon
View from the Balloon

Yes, we were that low...
Champagne!Champagne!
Champagne!

Okay, the real reason one goes in a balloon...lol...
Lioness..Lioness..
Lioness..

...complete with collar tracker...house arrest?


15th December 2019
Hippos from the Balloon

Wow, wow, wow
That is an amazing view.
17th December 2019
Hippos from the Balloon

Hard to believe...
...this was taken from the balloon, a magical experience all around...and yep the giraffes turned into favourites of mine as well!

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