Ballooning over the Serengeti

My mother flew in from the U.S. to help my family celebrate my 40th birthday, which we spent at a fantastic fly camp above Lake Ndutu on the border of Serengeti National Park and the Ngorogoro Conservation Area. Our 5 days were filled with abundant game, highlighted by a family of newborn cheetah cubs and a lioness tolerating the repeated nips of her playful cubs. I’ve been on safari maybe 25 times during my 8 years in Tanzania, and this trip was one of the best.

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On the morning of my birthday, the camp staff woke us in the dark and drove us to our launch zone, where the crew was filling a massive green-and-white-stripped balloon. We launched before sunrise and drifted at surprisingly high speeds across the plains. Our balloon rose and fell with the thermals as the sun rose behind us, giving us closeup views of the zebra and wildebeest herds below as well as a stunning perspective on just how massive the Serengeti plains are.

We settled into what the pilot assured us was a perfectly normal and safe landing, which to my novice rear end felt like a controlled crash. We then drove to a secluded site tucked into the edge of a woodland, where we enjoyed a champagne breakfast in the bush, complete with full silver and a butler. Outrageously expensive, but a fabulous birthday present and the experience of a lifetime, which no one in my family will forget soon. Check out the video of our flight below.