I feel safe. I feel secure. I feel warm.
A blast from the whisper burners emits enough heat to take off the morning’s chill.
We are told that cool mornings create calm winds, ideal for ballooning. The twin balloons in their green and beige stripes to blend in with the environment don’t stay close together because of the ever changing wind patterns. As we separate, we notice our balloon’s shadow on our companion balloon making a striking picture and memory.
At times we are skimming over the grasslands low enough to observe life on the prowl. A leopard darts out from the underbrush with a long snake clutched in its mouth and dangling almost to the ground.
“Did you see that?” someone yells.
The magic carpet continues gliding and I keep my eyes focused below. We see a family of foxes with their busy tails trotting single file across the golden savannah.
We are slowly lifted up and over an acacia tree dotted with cranky vultures still roosting. Their designated task of daily cleaning up the landscape has yet to begin.
Our pilot lifts us up to about 1,000 feet allowing us to comprehend the vastness of the Serengeti.
I squeeze my husband’s hand and he squeezes mine back.
Miles and miles of grassland, kopjes (rocky outcroppings) and acacia trees fill the panorama in every direction. The horizon seems endless and the mountains in the distance are just that: in the endless distance. After several days observing wildlife from a Land rover, this gives it a completely different perspective. From up here, it’s not about seeing the Big Five ( lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, cape buffalo) but viewing Africa, the landscape.
Gazelles are momentarily disturbed by our proximity and gracefully run, but there is no cover.
Giraffe’s stretch to munch on acacia leaves oblivious to our presence while others on their long lanky legs stand erect and stare back at us.
We are now over the Seronera River, an oasis in the middle of the Serengeti.
Palm trees lean over the river casting their shadows. Hippos crash through the water
creating a frothy wake while others are content to languor in the cool waters with their heads resting on each other.
Observing our chase vehicles on the dirt road below, kicking up a dust cloud, signals this hour long journey is coming to an end.
No!I do not want it to be over. When will I ever do this again?
Our captain tells us where he is going to land and to use our hand grips. Cameras quickly disappear into back packs and pockets with a few out for that last minute shot.
This time, we climb over the sides of the gondola, onto a step and out. While the burners are still on, the pilot lifts the balloon up and gently onto the back of a large flatbed transport. Amazing.
We get into vehicles which take us a short distance to experience an Out of Africa English breakfast with champagne. Set up under the canopy of a giant acacia tree is a table to accommodate all of us.
Tablecloths. Cloth napkins. Bone china. Kings cutlery. Crystal glassware.
Completing the scene are porcelain basins of water on a small table for washing hands.
Markham makes a toast and congratulates us on our successful journey and willingness to love an adventure. Each of us receives a certificate for doing so dated, Feb. 3, 2008, and signed by him.
Servants dressed in Swahili attire cook and bring us breakfast of sausage, eggs, bacon, mushrooms, potatoes, tomatoes, breads, fruits, juices, coffee and tea.
While eating this marvelous and tasty meal, I listen to the various accents and discover that the 32 of us on this tour represent the UK, Brazil, Germany, Austria, Australia, Italy and the US.
I also realize that we are being watched…by zebras and giraffes, ever present. We are in their space, momentarily borrowing it.
Serengeti Balloon Safari. Incredible experience!
Please visit Ron Mayhew Photography for more Serengeti photos.