Sunday, August 11, 2013

To balloon ride or not, across the Serengeti in Tanzania


"Want to do a balloon ride in the Serengeti?" I asked the Travel Companion to Tanzania a few days ago.

We're in the last stages of planning for our trip to Tanzania, and almost everything is set for an epic trip of three amazing and very different safaris, plus the best resort on the magical island of Zanzibar.

And then one night for shopping in Dar es Salaam on the way home.

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SMALL PLANES, HERE WE GO AGAIN...

He just has to book us those series of very small planes that are supposed to take us from one wilderness to another.

And then we're done with trip preparations.

So I hope he reads this blog entry and gets reminded that he has to book these flights very soon or else we might get stuck with a second-tier charter airline...

This is the plane we took from Johannesburg to the Sabi Sabi Game Reserve last year.
Considering I so dislike small planes, this experience was way better than I expected. 

TO BALLOON OR NOT?

The balloon ride over the Serengeti is sort of icing on the cake.

We've booked one of the best safari experiences in the Serengeti at one of the best times to be there, you see.

And nearby is the opportunity to go up in a balloon and see all of God's creation from up on high.


We'd also done a hot air balloon ride in South Africa last year, although I was definitely the more enthusiastic one then.

He (and our driver) had just been a good sport about accompanying me, and waking up at an ungodly hour to get to the takeoff venue 40 minutes away from Johannesburg by 430 AM.



In South Africa, we flew with
AIR TO AIR AFRICA HOT AIR BALLOONS
www.airtoairafrica.co.za

That's literally our balloon in the photo,
taken by a pro photographer who was on-site that morning...


REMEMBERING A LONG WEEKEND 
WITH VERY LITTLE SLEEP, IN JOHANNESBURG

But the balloon ride over the Cradle of Mankind in South Africa had been absolutely marvelous.

What a gorgeous country South Africa is, when seen from the air.

From the balloon, I also saw all kinds of terrain and exotic animals.



Thinking about it now, it was really a surreal experience, and a great way to start a wonderful trip around South Africa, as well as a very long day.

After breakfast, we went to several museums, and then drove to Sun City for lunch.

In the afternoon, we headed straight to Pretoria to see the jacaranda trees.



And then it was back to Johannesburg for a gourmet dinner cooked by Johannesburg's hottest chef at his new restaurant, even before it was formally opened.

We visited him in his kitchen, which was filled with boxes, and drank champagne to start the evening, on the counter of his open-plan kitchen.

All in all, a long but enjoyable day that began at 4 AM and ended at around midnight.

If you have the April-May 2013 issue of Travelife Magazine, read about our very long and fun weekend in Johannesburg...





BREAKFAST WITH A GIRAFFE IN SOUTH AFRICA



And even the post-balloon ride breakfast in the garden of a farm had been a nice surprise.

We'd sat outdoors and had very good croissants and our first taste of the South African dish bobotie.

BOBOTIE ON SAFARI 
AT THE SABI SABI GAME RESERVE IN SOUTH AFRICA

Breakfast after the hot air balloon ride...

Interestingly, we'd only had bobotie twice on this trip, and both times had been at breakfast.

On safari at the Sabi Sabi Game Reserve, the chef in Sabi Sabi's Earth Lodge on our last night was determined to make us a mean bobotie, and the only opportunity was for breakfast the next day.

Bobotie is quite heavy and flavorful, and there we were in the middle of nowhere in Kruger National Park, having it before our flight to Joburg and onwards to Cape Town.

POST-BALLOON BREAKFAST
AT THE CRADLE OF MANKING


On the morning of our hot air balloon ride just outside Johannesburg, however, a giraffe and a couple of springbok had even joined us for breakfast -- our first proper breakfast in South Africa.

So this very nice memory of a South African balloon ride, coupled with my other memories of other balloon rides in other parts of the world, was what prompted me to suggest another hot air balloon ride in Tanzania.




TO BALLOON OR NOT, IN TANZANIA?

Of course, in the last few months, there have been a spate of hot air balloon accidents all around the world -- and this is what is making us hesitate.


That, and perhaps the idea of waking up early every single morning in Tanzania.




We've booked three of Tanzania's ultimate safaris back-to-back, you see, and early morning drives are de rigeur when you're in the bush.

They wake you up at 5 AM and then, after a quick cup of coffee or tea, you drive around looking for animals for around three hours.

It sounds brutal if you've never done it -- but it's really enjoyable and very addicting.



LOOKING FOR THE AMAZING IN TANZANIA.
SEE YOU SOON.

I still haven't given up on the idea of a hot air balloon ride across the Serengeti, however, but I am thinking about it a bit more.

The experiences I've had so far, of being up in the air traveling across amazing scenery, have just been indescribable.



But in my next blog entry, I'm going to try and describe my hot air balloon ride across Capadoccia in Turkey, with Goreme Balloons.

This is still the gold standard of hot air balloon rides around the world, in my opinion, living a never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.





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