balloon safari
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balloon safari

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A
balloon safari
is a balloon flight which takes place in a wilderness area and often including an element of wildlife viewing.

The flight usually entails a very early pre-dawn start, driving from camp to the take-off area. The balloon is usually filled with hot air around first light, enabling take-off at dawn. The flight itself can last anything from half and hour to two hours, dependent largely on the wind conditions.

The baskets used on safari balloons are usually designed to take 16 or 24 people, occasionally you may encounter a 12 seater. Generally speaking the experience is better with a smaller basket and fewer people.

In most locations the balloon is not free to fly off in all directions, so the pilot needs to vary altitudes during the flight in order to take advantage of currents which will drive the balloon on the correct course. But during most flights the pilot will be able to include sections of low-level flying, during which there may well be the chance to do some wildlife viewing, as well as sections at high altitude where the majesty of the wider scenery can be appreciated.

During the flight the balloon will usually be tracked by a ground crew in vehicles and the pilot will attempt to land the balloon close to, or even directly on the back of, the recovery vehicle.

Almost all balloon experiences conclude with a champagne breakfast, a tradition which dates back to the time of the pioneering Montgolfier brothers, when the French parliament declared that balloon pilots had the right to land anywhere, so long as they gave the landowner a bottle of champagne by way of compensation. Some pilots still use a sword to remove the tops of the champagne bottles.

After breakfast guests are driven back to their lodges or to a rendezvous with their safari vehicles and guides.

In virtually all cases, balloon safari is quite an expensive undertaking, so much so that we tend to include it in trips relatively rarely.


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