There are many side attractions of going for a family safari in Africa, or at least in Kenya and Tanzania. One of them is a Balloon ride over the Serengeti Plain. As this might be our only time of doing a safari, we decided to add one to our itinerary for our trip. Just for the experience of flying in a balloon as well as the idea of looking at the animals from an aerial view, provided off course that we were not flying too high up.
OK this is a bit of information on how and how a balloon can fly. The construction of it consists of a single-layered, fabric gas bag (lifting “envelope”), with an opening at the bottom called the mouth or throat. Attached to the envelope is a basket, or gondola, for carrying the passengers. In the middle of the the mouth is the “burner”, which injects a flame into the envelope, heating the air within and inflates the balloon. The heater or burner is fueled by liquid propane that mixes with air.
According to captain Nick, our pilot who flew our balloon, propane liquid gas costs around 5.00 US$/minutes and for an hour ride, he has to have a stock of propane gas that lasts for at least 90 minutes thus it costs him around $ 450.- for a ride. However, the balloon fabric will only last for 2 years; so he has to buy a new balloon every two years.
As this is my first balloon ride, I don’t have any experience how the balloon was inflated and how we will get into the basket let alone how it starts to fly, but this experience gave me first hand information on how to inflate the balloon and how to get into the basket just seconds before the balloon starts floating above the ground, which was really like an airplane trying to take off except this one had no wheels and no tarmac runways
Once we were all in side the basket then the pilot will “glide” us (thru a very bumpy runway…) until we were really on an upright position and up in the air.
With the burner and propane gas plus cords that connected to the “parachute valve” at the top of the balloon, the pilot could control it’s height from the ground. Or in other words, the pilot could control the up and down of the balloon, however, he could not control the speed or the direction of the balloon… 😦
Nevertheless, flying with a hot air balloon was really a special experience for us, as it was very quiet and serene being up in the open air above the Serengeti Plain, very early in the morning. We saw the plains with the animals as they were waking up or even ‘going to bed’ after the long night.