Discover Tanzania's majestic Serengeti on a hot air balloon safari! Experience the Great Migration & the Big Five from a bird's eye view.
A huge cloud of fire rises into the sky with an incredible roar. The animals of the Serengeti probably live in constant fear of the large green and gold dragons that take to the skies every morning at dusk to circle above their heads. What chance does even the mighty lion have against such an enemy?
At sunrise, hot air balloons rise over the Serengeti in Tanzania/Africa
It's just before sunrise in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania in East Africa - with 14,763 km2, certainly one of the largest and most famous national parks in the world. Around 120,000 tourists visit it every year.
Whether rhinos, gazelles, giraffes, buffaloes, elephants or lions and leopards – nowhere are the chances of seeing these animals in the wild greater.
Nowhere in the world is there more big game, nowhere more lions and hyenas. A place of superlatives, the perfect place for our first balloon flight: our dragon has now turned out to be a hot air balloon. Four burners blew hot air into the huge belly until it continued to bulge and rise.
Last instructions before the hot air balloon ride
Our pilot gives us the final instructions: Put long hair under the hood and stay seated until he allows us to get up. I feel a bit like an astronaut as I crouch down in the still lying basket. With our backs on the ground and our legs bent, we wait for the balloon to rise. A final hiss and a huge jet of fire - the basket of the hot air balloon moves, turns upwards - only now we are in a sitting position - and takes off gently like a light feather. We are flying! As soon as we are in the air we are allowed to stand up.We float silently over the savannah, towards the rising sun on the Serengeti. Fantastic! It's really completely silent. Once the dragon/balloon is in the air, it rarely has to let out a small hiss. Otherwise, the only sound is the creaking of the basket and our shouts of delight at the incredible beauty of Africa: in the golden light of the morning sun, the grass of the Serengeti turns a soft orange.
Our hot air balloon glides silently over the Serengeti in Tanzania - a bird's eye view of Africa!
We glide just over the peaks of the typical African umbrella acacias towards a small lake. The hippos, leisurely splashing in the water, may be surprised at the large shadow that suddenly falls on them, but they cannot hear us. The Masai word (tribe of eastern Africa) Serengeti translates as “the endless land”. Even from above we see nothing other than African expanse all the way to the horizon.
The great migration of the zebras and wildebeest
1.2 million white-tailed wildebeest and hundreds of thousands of zebras cut a massive trail through the Serengeti in search of water and grass. On their migration, the wildebeest and zebras encounter antelopes, gazelles, giraffes, buffaloes, lions and hyenas. And everything depends on the wildebeest. Because without the dung that they release every day, the landscape would be barren. Then the grass wouldn't even grow here anymore.
Ecological balance in danger
The Mara River, which is essential for everyone's survival, rises in the Kenyan Mau Mountains, which act as a water reservoir for the dry season. Unfortunately, they have been cut down so much in recent years that the Mara River no longer carries as much water as it once did. In addition, the ever-growing wheat farms need artificial irrigation, which is taken from the main river. Should the Mara dry out twice in a row for one to two months, the large wildebeest herds will disappear, and with them the Serengeti ecosystem. This savannah ecosystem is one of the oldest on earth - the climate, vegetation and fauna have changed little over the last millions of years.
The Serengeti has become famous for the “Great Migration”, the seasonal migration of herds of animals.
During the little rainy season in October and November, over a million wildebeest and around 200,000 zebras set out from the hills in the north to the plains in the south in search of green vegetation and water, and then move back north after the big rainy season in April, May and June.This ancient drive is so strong that the animals cannot be stopped by parched areas, gorges or the crocodiles lurking in the rivers - and yes not at all by a balloon gliding over them!
It's March, normally the large herds pass through the Seronera area at the end of May, June and again in November/December. Seronera lies in the heart of the Serengeti. There are a few hotels and several more or less luxurious tented accommodations here. The only hot air balloons in Tanzania take off from here. Animals and smaller herds can be observed in the Serengeti all year round, but of course we would like to see the big, famous “migration”. Our pilot gives us hope: The short rainy season was very poor and large herds of zebras and wildebeest have already been spotted in the central Serengeti. Far away we see a dark spot in the golden grass. We fly low and approach slowly and silently.
There they are: thousands of wildebeests and zebras! A huge herd, kicking up dust with countless hooves.
On approach to land
In order to prevent our low flight from ending in a crash landing, our pilot has to activate the burners. And there it is again: the panic of the animals in front of the big dragon. What was previously a leisurely wandering herd is now racing in all directions at a hunting gallop.
The sound that the many hooves make on the dry savannah ground will always be unforgettable for us.
The balloon slowly rises above the grazing animals again. Little by little the zebras settle into a calmer trot. The herd relaxes again and trots further south, following their internal clock. Even our pilot was so excited by the sight that we were already hovering over a hill where the jeeps couldn't catch us. Because the balloon flies with the thermals.
On the bumpy roads, the cars try to stay within sight to pick up the passengers after landing. Here you are in the wilderness. All the animals that you have previously seen from above (or, more dangerously, not seen) live here in the wild. After an hour, the pilots usually try to land near a path - also in order to cause as little damage to the animals and nature as possible. Our captain communicates with the second balloon via radio.
We have to look over the hill and then where there is a sufficiently large and clear area to land. And then it happens pretty quickly: we huddle back in the basket while we whiz past treetops by a whisker. Horror scenarios are already playing out in my head in which we drag along the ground for meters or are simply tipped out of the basket by treetops. But nothing of the sort happens: Our pilot lands the balloon as smooth as silk on the hard ground. A short time later, two jeeps fight their way through the bushes to pick us up for our champagne breakfast.
“Out of Africa” - feeling sets in as we sit comfortably for breakfast under a huge umbrella acacia tree.
Luxurious champagne breakfast under umbrella acacia trees
In addition to champagne, there are fresh tropical fruits, warm rolls and a typical English breakfast with sausages, mushrooms, eggs and tomatoes. Served in style by waiters in traditional Swahili clothing including a turban. How should my life continue after such an unforgettable experience? With dreams! I want a dragon with which I can fly over the earth every morning... and above all, please have him serve me a breakfast like this every time afterwards!
Tanzania is considered one of the safest travel destinations in Africa. The Tanzania Tourism Portal provides information on health care, entry and the political situation.
Visitors should register in advance Apply for e-Visa
Condor flies directly to Kilimanjaro International Airport or to Zanzibar once a week from around 800 euros.
Flat rate:A first-class provider for safaris is Africa-Travel-Resource. The website is very informative, but only in English.
The balloon rides in the Serengeti can be integrated into any safari. You can book them either through the respective provider or directly at www.balloonsafaris.com/. The approximately one-hour flight and the champagne breakfast cost $550 per person.
The Ronjo Camp guarantees “Out of Africa” feeling. The canvas tents with bathrooms are in the middle of the Serengeti.