Balloon Safari over Ruaha

Balloon Safari over Ruaha

Take to the skies in a hot-air balloon, and experience the magic of the Ruaha from the air. As you float overhead, the silence broken only by the occasional boost of the burners, you’ll have a birds’ eye view of the scene below, right down to the individual animals that traverse the plains.

You’ll be woken early to meet your driver, who will take you to the balloon launch side. This usually takes around 45–90 minutes, and due to the early hour is mostly driven in the dark. Keep your eyes open for nocturnal creatures as you wend your way through the bush.

You will arrive just as the balloon is warming up, the burner pumping hot air into the balloon so that it slowly inflates. When everything is ready, you climb into the basket whilst it is still safely tethered, securing yourself in with a safety harness.

After a safety briefing, the pilot will increase the output of the burners and very slowly the balloon will start to rise. Catching the wind, it starts to float, rising into the air and above the trees just in time for sunrise. For the next hour or so your pilot will skilfully manoeuvre the balloon, mostly following the Ruaha River, until you reach the Mwagusi River confluence. He may take it up to incredible heights for seemingly endless views over the national park, then closer to ground level to spot hippos in the Ruaha River or herds of buffalo heading to the water for a morning drink. Traverse the river, keeping your eyes open and trying to spot any predators loitering along the river bank, before coming in to land in a clearing on the other side of the confluence.

Landings do vary. When we did the flight the landing was perfect – the balloon barely dragged and the basket didn’t even tip over. If there is a stronger wind, however, the basket can drag a short way and tip over. With all the passengers inside braced against the basket and hanging on to the handles it can make for an exciting finish!

Once you are safely down, the balloon crew will offer you a glass of bubbles to celebrate. Then it’s time to head off for a cooked breakfast in the bush – and more bubbles if you fancy it. Though there is of course tea, coffee and fruit juice served alongside the cereals, eggs, toast, sausages and bacon. On a practical note, there are toilet facilities at the breakfast site.

Start time/location: You will be collected at around 5.00am and driven to the launch site near Msembe Airstrip, ready for take-off just before sunrise (around 6.00am).

Duration of excursion: Around three hours. The balloon flight lasts for roughly an hour, and is followed by a bush breakfast.

Maximum group size: The balloon baskets can carry up to 12 passengers at a time.

Age and health restrictions: The minimum age for ballooning is 7 years. There is no maximum age, though passengers must be relatively fit and able to climb in and out of the basket, hold on to rope handles and bend their knees. Ballooning is not recommended for anyone with health or mobility issues, or for pregnant women.

What should you wear: Mornings can be chilly in Ruaha so we would recommend wearing long trousers, a warm jacket and a jumper. You may also want to wear a hat to protect your head from the heat of the burners – especially if you are tall. Lastly don’t forget your camera or binoculars!