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.