The reason for getting up at this ridiculous hour? We had booked the optional extra on our trip, a hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti. The balloon company was due to pick us up from our camp at 5am, so after getting dressed into warm clothes, we signaled the staff with a torch (remember we couldn't wander around in the dark) and were escorted to the dining area for a cup of tea whilst we waited.
We were the only ones in our group that had opted to do this. Most of the group had done this the previous week in Kenya, and the only other person had baulked at the price.
It was still dark when we arrived at our launch site, so we couldn't see anyone apart from their torch lights, so we were slightly surprised when an American voice handed us a belt and told us to put it on. In the gloom we gathered around our American pilot and received our introduction and pre-flight instructions. It got light so quickly that it felt like we had blinked and suddenly we could we everyone in our group.
The basket was lying on its side, so we had to clamber in, lie on our backs and as the balloon lifted, it would tip us back upright.
The flight was very smooth, it didn't feel like you had left the ground, we drifted leisurely along before our pilot took us higher. Sadly it was too cloudy so we didn't get a sunrise.
We did see plenty of gazelle, quite a few hyenas and even; in the distance, a herd of elephants. At one point we did fly over a vulture sat on her nest with a chick. They were cool to see, but as the early morning light wasn't the best for taking photos, I think it was better as an experience of being in a hot air balloon, rather than spotting wildlife.
When we had landed we were given champagne mixed with mango juice to celebrate, before we joined with another balloon group and taken to where we would have breakfast.
On the way, we were delighted to spot a leopard in a tree, with the remainder of it's kill higher up in the branches!
Breakfast was a full English, that was absolutely delicious.
The toilets provided were three-sided, so that you had a "loo with a view" (and hoped that there weren't any tour groups with good binoculars).
Once we had finished, and had speeches of thanks, we were taken to the Serengeti visitors centre where we rejoined our group for a morning's game drive. They had had a successful morning of lions, and leopards but we were hopeful to see more.
It turned out to be a very successful game drive.
Can you spot the baby? Look carefully, the grass is nearly taller!
A baby hippo exploring out of the water
Mum is keeping a watchful eye
A favourite of our drivers - A Tsseebee Antelope, or as it is commonly known as "Blue jeans, yellow socks" because of the distinctive markings.
Try not to disturb the hippos in the water, whilst having a drink
This youngster wants a closer look
Sshhhhh! Does anyone want o play sleeping lions?
Some of these lions have got a tracking collar, to monitor movement and research.
As we were watching one of the baboons made a sudden movement, prompting an alarm call. The entire group scattered.
This silly gazelle got covered in mud, but now he can't understand why his friends don't recognise him.
An old male buffalo. This old general has probably been pushed out by the younger males.
We made our way back to the accommodation for lunch, and were pleased when Haron told us that we weren't going out again until 4pm, so we could have a rest.
The afternoon was mostly spent watching hippos, as there was an area where you could get out of the vehicles for a closer look.
I wouldn't recommend swimming....
My! What big teeth you have!
This lone zebra looked rather sad and not quite right. As he walked away we saw him limping. The vegetarian in the group wasn't too impressed by him being called "Lion's dinner"
This big male passed by our vehicle on his way back to the river. He had spent the afternoon asleep in a shady spot.
As we got back to the camp, we witnessed one of the coolest things I have ever seen. The vehicle stopped suddenly as there was a huge bull elephant right in front of us. We were warned to keep very quiet as he was making aggressive gestures. He was trying to attract the attention of a female herd nearby. He kept urinating and splashing it across his back legs. This produced a scent to let the females know that he as nearby and wanting to mate.
Watch the Video Below
Tomorrow, our final game drive as we go to the Ngorongoro Crater.
David and Joanna
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Day 242 - Safari day 4 (Hot air balloon and hippos)
August 29, 2019
Day 241 - Safari day 3 - Drive to Serengetti
August 25, 2019
Day 198-199 - To Townsville
June 24, 2019
Days 195-197 - The Whitsundays & Great Barrier Reef