What to Expect on a Balloon Safari in Tanzania
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A brisk morning in the Serengeti. You’ve been awake way before sunrise in anticipation of the bucket-list activity: hot air balloon ride over one of the most amazing nature reserves in the world!
As you approach the launch site, you see flames rising in the air. The balloon is being inflated, awaiting its passengers. A short safety briefing later, you climb into the basket, excited to be whisked away into the Serengeti sky.
The balloon climbs and the vastness of the area soon dawns on you. A stack of acacia trees here, one there, while various wildlife are going about their morning routine as the sun rises.
It sounds charming, doesn’t it? But can anyone go on a balloon safari in Tanzania? How much does it cost? Is it safe? Well, here, we are answering all these questions – and more – to make sure you have a superb experience on your safari.
Visiting Tanzania during COVID-19 era: Travel guidelines for international travelers
Tanzania has re-opened for international travel as of April 4, 2020.
All travelers entering or leaving the United Republic of Tanzania will be subjected to enhanced screening for COVID-19 infection.
All travelers are required to fill out the Traveler’s Surveillance Form available onboard or in any other transport means and submit it to Port Health Authorities upon arrival.
As of Tuesday, May 4, 2021, all travelers, whether foreign or returning residents, will be required to provide a negative RT PCR COVID-19 test certificate upon arrival, taken within 72 hours.
Travelers arriving from countries with high numbers of COVID-19 cases will also need to take a rapid test upon arrival. The cost for the rapid test is 25 USD per traveler.
All travelers arriving from countries with new variants (based on WHO daily updates) or those who have traveled in these countries in the past 14 days are subject to a rapid test upon arrival and 14-days mandatory quarantine.
All travelers should adhere to the prevention and control measures, such as hand hygiene, wearing masks, and keeping physical distance.
For more information, please check out the official guidelines.
Where can I go on a balloon safari in Tanzania?
Everyone dreams of flying over the Serengeti National Park in a hot balloon. But this is not the only park where you can indulge in this activity. Hot balloon rides also take place in Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Ruaha National Park.
When is the best time to go on a balloon safari in Tanzania?
Photo credit: Kili Slope Tours and Safaris Ltd
Thankfully, the weather in Serengeti is suitable for balloon rides year-round. The chance of spotting wildlife depends on the time of the year and location, though.
However, a balloon safari in Serengeti National Park during the “green seasons”: late March to early June and November to mid-December is quite magical and preferred. This is when the Great Migration passes through the Serengeti.
It usually rains during the afternoon and night, which means mornings are bright, clear, and with gentle winds. At the same time, the landscape is lush, green, and free from dust.
Balloon rides are also offered throughout the dry season, which is a great time to go on any type of safari in the Serengeti. And chances of rain are fewer.
»Planning to visit Seregenti? Read our detailed guide to visiting Serengeti National Park.
In Ruaha, the rain lasts from November to April/May but the balloon rides run from June to October.
What time of the day does a balloon ride take place?
The balloon takes off at sunrise, so be prepared for a very early wake-up call at the accommodation.
How long does a balloon ride take?
The flight time is approximately 1 hour.
What happens before, during, and after a balloon ride?
Photo credit: Travel Africa Safari Agency
The balloon ride operator will pick you up from the accommodation (around 4-5:30 a.m.) and transfer you to the launch site. On the way, you may even be able to catch a glimpse of nocturnal animals! The balloon takes off just in time for the sunrise.
Depending on the weather that day, it will hang low on the Serengeti floor or ascend up to 1,000 ft / 305 min. Most of the time, however, you’ll be just above the treetops. Therefore, don’t expect up close and personal encounters with wildlife.
After you land, you can enjoy champagne (yes!) and a full English breakfast (with options for vegans and vegetarians) under a tree, before returning to meet your safari guide at a pre-agreed upon location.
Will there be more safari guests in the basket with me?
Yes, you will share the balloon ride with other safari-goers. The baskets can hold 12-16 individuals.
Do I have to pay for the balloon ride separately?
Yes, and make sure to inquire ahead of time as this is an exclusive activity with limited availability.
The price is, generally, just under US$600 per person for a balloon ride in Serengeti, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, and Ruaha National Park. The prices vary based on the operator and locations.
Can anyone go on a balloon safari? Is it safe?
Unfortunately, there are some restrictions. Children under 7 years old may not go on a balloon ride. And it isn’t a suitable activity for pregnant women, as well as people with reduced mobility or health issues (such as heart conditions and brittle bones).
There’s no upper limit on who can go on a balloon ride, but the person needs to be in good health, fit to fly, and able to climb into the basket. If you are afraid of heights, you may be surprised to know that it shouldn’t impede your experience!
The average acceptable weight is 80 kg/176lbs and passengers who weigh more than 120kgs / 265lbs may be charged for two places.
The balloons are well maintained and serviced often. There is a large team that makes sure everything is in top shape for the rides. The safety measures and the men power needed to offer the experience also explains the steep price.
I am booked on a set safari itinerary. Can I include a balloon ride?
Yes! Make sure to ask your safari organizer if they can book a balloon ride for you. Else, you can reach out to the balloon ride companies on your own. Make sure to let them know exactly where you’d be staying during your safari.
What should I wear during a balloon ride? What should I bring with me?
Mornings are brisk in Tanzania, but it usually warms up later. So, wearing layers is perfect. You may bring a windbreaker, too.
It is recommended to wear a hat, whether the radiant heat from the burners is uncomfortable or your locks get crazy in the wind.
Don’t forget to wear sunscreen on any exposed surface of the skin but do note that long trousers and shirts are preferred.
And be sure to bring your binoculars and your camera. You may also bring a small camera bag or a small backpack.
A hot air balloon safari is an exciting adventure! There are no words to describe the feeling when you float above the treetops, wind in your hair, the magnificent landscape spreading all around you.
Note: BookAllSafaris offers a flexible cancellation policy. Should you not be able to travel as scheduled, we’d be happy to help you alter your booking with the same organizer or a different organizer.
Hero photo credit: Travel Africa Safari Agency
Experience the exciting Great Migration (from eye level or the air) during a Migration Safari in Tanzania!