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Author: donhill52003

Joined: 4/30/2010
Posts: 1
GCT Trips Taken: 3
OAT Trips Taken: 1
Traveler Since: 2007

April 30, 2010

We will be taking the OAT tour to the Serengeti in January 2011.  I have two questions which are as follows:

1.  Did you think that the ballon ride over the Serengeti was worth while?  How long were you actually in the air?

2.  My real concern is at the beginning and end of the trip when you have to sit down on a small cushion.  First of all, I am more that 9 inches wide (the size of the cushion).  Second, I can bend my knees more than 90 degrees, but, I have never sat cross legged (Indian fashion) in my life - even as a small child.  I do not have the flexibility to bend my knees outward. 

So my questions are,  do you feel that I could sit on the small cushion during takeoff and landing?  How high does the cushion lift you off the floor of the gondola?

I would really appreciate your input - particularily with regards to my concern about sitting during takeoff and landing.

Thanks for your help,

Don Hill

Author: johnchap2

Joined: 3/18/2010
Posts: 4
GCT Trips Taken: 18
OAT Trips Taken: 9
Traveler Since: 1998

June 09, 2010

Interesting if that is the rule since in Egypt all balloon passengers had to hold onto grips on the side of the basket and bend their legs in a crouched postion to absorb any shock of landing.  Just like jumping off a high step with the legs flexing to absorb the shock.  Sitting cross legged on a small cushion would seem to unnecessarily expose you to spine damage on a hard landing.

Author: gary57

Joined: 6/16/2010
Posts: 2
GCT Trips Taken: 8
OAT Trips Taken: 1
Traveler Since: 2002

June 16, 2010

I just returned from Egypt and had the balloon ride which was incredible.  The instructions were to hold the handles (braided rope) and crouch down, keeping your back straight.  We were told that the operator would inform us when we would have to do this.  Well, time for landing, we did not have to do this at was such a perfect landing there was no need to be in a safety position.  I am sure that other operators have their rules, but sitting would not be wise...there would be no protection for your spine whereas your legs, bent slightly can absorb some impact. 

Author: richard r

Joined: 7/21/2010
Posts: 85
GCT Trips Taken: 3
OAT Trips Taken: 15
Countries Visited:

I've lived and worked in Asia, Europe and the Middle East, plus Hawaii, Alaska and on both coasts of the USA.

Traveler Since: 1997

July 21, 2010

I took the Serengeti balloon flight in February 1999, and was definitely delighted by the experience.  I'm going back to the Serengeti in early August and have opted again for the balloon flight.  Eleven years ago the cost was $350, now it's $450, and if you purchase the trip insurance (recommended), the cost of the balloon flight will raise your overall trip cost by $95, because the flight cost pushes one $95 into the next higher trip insurance bracket.  Is the balloon flight worth $545 ?  Yes for some, no for others; it's up to you.  I asked myself: "Is there anything my wife and I won't be able to do in the future if I take the balloon flight?"  Our answer was no in both cases, and I opted for the flight again because the first time was such a blast !  My wife did not join me for lack of interest (sum cuique).

In 1999 the flight lasted about an hour, maybe a little longer, but it seemed like 15 minutes.  There were no cushions for take off and landing.  In each case we squatted on our heels, leaned against the basket side and held on to rope handles (no yoga knees/legs out sideways, no room for that as we were shoulder to shoulder).  The take off was smooth but noisy; we rose from our squats about 30 seconds after take off.  From then on we stood at the basket's edge, which was about chest high.  Our flight was smooth and exciting, as we could see quite a way from 500 feet up, but our altitude varied from skimming along at 20 feet to just above tree height to much higher and lower,  depending on the pilot's use of the engine.   The wind blew us down the Serengeti at about 15 miles per hour.  The sun rose behind us and our shadow fled downwind before us.  We passed over herds of elephant, zebra and antelope.  When the engine was off (which was most of the time) we could hear the sounds game below as they began the day.

For landing, we assumed the squat, and because the wind continued to pull the balloon downwind, the basket and passengers were bumped and dragged for 10 or 15 yards and the basket tipped on its side.  By this time everyone was laughing with delight.  Upon landing were were served a magnificent breakfast right on the savannah by a chef in an 18" high toque.  After breakfast we were taken to the Serena Lodge to join others for the morning game drive.   If you can squat on your heels for a minute or so then stand up by holding the ropes and basket edge, you could manage this trip option.  


Author: dmarq

Joined: 8/17/2010
Posts: 6
GCT Trips Taken: 6
OAT Trips Taken: 6
Traveler Since: 2008

August 17, 2010

I really enjoyed the balloon ride as a part of my OAT trip to the Serengeti just a few weeks ago (end of July 2010).  It was one of my highlights and lasted about 50 minutes, but as mentioned, it seemed much shorter.  We saw a beautiful sunrise as well as a pool of hippos, a group of lions, and a herd of giraffe, even though they don't promise that you'll see animals.

The small cushion is on a bench that is raised above the floor and sitting cross-legged wasn't necessary.  When the balloon took off we were actually lying on our backs with our rears on the cushion, so when the balloon righted the basket, we were seated.  Once we were airborn we could stand to look out at the great vistas.  (We had one tall, large man in our basket and he didn't have any problems.)  For the landing we sat on the bench again until we were told it was safe because the basket may be on its side again or on the bottom.  Ours landed smoothly and upright - great pilot.    I say go for it and enjoy!



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