Incomparable views: The best locations for hot air balloon rides in Africa

May 2, 2024
Hot air balloon safari

“The experience of floating across the Maasai Mara in a hot air balloon, just a few feet above wildlife as far as the eye can see, will always stay with me. The sheer diversity, the endless volume of animals…it’s unbelievable.” - Stephen Bell, ROAR AFRICA specialist guide

Just imagine a warm breeze washing over you as a breathtaking landscape unfolds below you. The sweeping savannah is yours to explore from above as you soak up the sun’s golden rays, unforgettable panoramas and an entirely new perspective of the continent’s precious and untamed wildlife roaming free. This is the allure of a hot air balloon ride across Africa’s open plains.

Drifting safely and peacefully above the continent’s stunning green landscapes, vast deserts and lush wetlands is an experience like no other. Join us as we explore the best destinations for an unforgettable hot air balloon ride in the African wilderness - elevating your safari to amazing new heights guided by the continent’s best experts.

Serengeti hot air balloon safari

The magic of hot air balloon rides in Africa

With sand, sea, savannahs and more at your fingertips, an African safari is a true journey of contrasts, and you have countless choices for what to see on a hot air balloon ride in Africa. Soar above Serengeti National Park as thousands of wildebeest migrate across the endless acacia-studded plains. Fly over the lush forests and winding river of the Maasai Mara or sweep silently across the salt pans and amber dunes of the Namib Desert. No matter which destination you choose, appreciating iconic African landscapes from above is something you’ll never forget. Somehow this highly rarified experience is both adrenalizing and peaceful…you are moving but you feel a deep sense of stillness and presence. There is nothing quite like it!

Most hot air balloon safaris begin at the break of dawn around 5 a.m. To take flight while a beautiful sunrise gently warms and awakens the landscape and the wildlife that call it home is transcendent. Capturing the energy of gentle winds and ascending and descending as needed for the best views, you’ll alternate between flying 1,000 feet high and what feels like nearly skimming the treetops. After about an hour of glorious gliding—which you can spend capturing photographs, getting a closer look at wildlife through binoculars or simply immersing yourself in the irreplicable moment at hand—you’ll enjoy a Champagne breakfast at your landing site surrounded by the sounds, sights and scents of nature.

You need not be concerned about safety, as all luxury hot air balloon experiences are headed by experienced, highly qualified pilots who specialize in navigating these specially-manufactured balloons with care.

Hot air balloon safari in Kenya

The top destinations for hot air balloon rides in Africa

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

A luxury safari in Tanzania can only be improved by a hot air balloon ride over Serengeti National Park. Home to the annual Great Migration, the incredibly biodiverse park is replete with wildlife, including lions, zebras and black rhinos, in addition to some 500 avian species. The eternal Serengeti savannahs, interrupted only by acacia trees and rocky kopjes, are particularly astounding as the dawn sunrise casts her warm glow, bathing the landscape in golden light.

When is the best time for a hot air balloon ride in Serengeti National Park?

If you’d like to witness the incredible feat that is the Great Migration - where 2 million wildebeest thunder across the Serengeti plains from above, your best chance is to time your hot air balloon ride from December–March in the Ndutu area. This is dry season in Tanzania, which means the weather should be on your side for hot air balloon flights, and the sparse vegetation should allow for fantastic wildlife viewing from above. You may even be able to marvel at lions as they hone their hunting skills for the calving season.

Namib Desert, Namibia

There is no better perspective of the towering ochre sand dunes of the Namib Desert—the oldest desert in the world—than the bird’s eye view you’ll get from the basket of a hot air balloon. The otherworldly Sossusvlei salt pan, with its amber sands and mystifying fairy circles, provides the perfect backdrop for a serene sunrise balloon ride. Farther north in Etosha National Park or Damaraland, you can soar above desert-adapted wildlife including the graceful oryx and springbok and even lions and elephants.

When is the best time for a hot air balloon ride in the Namib Desert?

Good news for your Namibia safari: Consistently dry weather means hot air balloon journeys are wonderful and widely offered year-round, except for parts of January–February, when rides are often paused for a respite from hot summer temperatures.

Hot air balloon trip in Namibia desert

Maasai Mara, Kenya

Feel your spirit come alive as you fly over the fever tree forests, grassy plains and the meandering river of the Maasai Mara National Reserve. The birthplace of safari and an iconic landscape to bear witness to the Great Migration, the magnificent Mara is home to an array of wildlife, from the Big Five to beautiful birds. A hot air balloon safari is a chance to experience the natural wonder of the Mara from a new perspective. See giraffes stretching their elegant necks for leafy bites through the treetops and spot hippos as they duck and dive in and out of the Mara River—while going virtually unnoticed in your silently sweeping balloon.

When is the best time for a hot air balloon ride in Maasai Mara?

The Maasai Mara is optimum in the dry season from June–October, when you’re most likely to see the magic of the Great Migration unfolding from your hot air balloon. Observing overhead as wildebeest and zebras bravely leap into the predator-laced Mara River to reach better grazing is quite a sight to behold, However, as you’ll learn upon your first luxury safari in Kenya, one visit to the Maasai Mara is never enough, and you’ll want to experience its beauty in every season.

Hot air balloon rides over Kenya

Tips for an unforgettable African hot air balloon safari

When to go on a hot air balloon safari in Africa: There’s a reason why most hot air balloon safaris happen at dawn—the light is stunning, the winds are hospitable and the quiet of sunrise means you’ll spot wildlife with minimal distractions in maximum seclusion. Rest assured, the early wakeup time will be well worth it. As for the best season for your safari, trust that Africa is incredible year-round. Even during the rainy season, showers are more common in the latter half of the day, leaving you with a clear sky and rich scenery to enjoy on your sunrise hot air balloon ride.

How to take stunning photographs on your hot air balloon safari:

Whether you’ll be documenting your journey on a DSLR camera or with your phone, be sure to use a long and/or wide-angle lens to capture the African landscape in its full glory. If possible, increase your shutter speed for the best images of leaping gazelles and other fast-moving wildlife. And though you’ll surely be zooming in on flora and fauna, be sure to get a few shots with the side of the basket in the frame—after all, these types of photos are only possible from a hot air balloon. Also, bear in mind that most of our hand-picked guides are expert wildlife photographers themselves, and always willing to offer guidance.

How to book a hot air balloon safari in Africa:

Whether you’re planning to safari in the national parks of East Africa or the ethereal deserts of the South, adding a hot air balloon ride for your trip is as simply as asking your safari expert. ROAR AFRICA’s on-the-ground specialists create bespoke itineraries for every guest entirely suited to your wants and needs. Tell us what wildlife and landscapes most interest you, and we will handle the rest. For the widest selection of safari options, aim to book well in advance.

A hot air balloon safari is a life-changing spectacle not only for the views, but also for the pure, unspoiled silence—an endangered species in our modern age. As the sunrise unfolds, you immerse yourself in remote wilderness, attuning to the sounds of the wild, the rippling of water and the call of birds. Once your balloon takes flight, all that’s left to do is embrace the tranquillity and privilege of this rare experience in untamed Africa.

Delve into the enchantment of ROAR AFRICA’s luxury African safari destinations, leaving the details of your life-changing journey to our team of safari experts boasting 11 generations of insider experience.


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