Four o’clock in the morning! The third day of our safari began at Thorn Tree Camp several hours before sunrise. Today we decided on a very special event, a hot air balloon ride in the Serengeti!
Already at half past five and after a short breakfast a driver picked us up. We had decided to do the tour with Serengeti Balloon Safaris. Together with two ladies, who had already been picked up from their accommodation, we set off for the nightly trip to the starting point of the balloon flight. During the drive we saw numerous animals and even a group of hippos crossing the road. Half an hour later, at the same time as the first rays of sunrise, we finally reached the landing site of the hot-air balloon. From there our flight over the Serengeti should start in less than an hour. Our pilot and the team were already busy setting up the balloon. We used the time to capture the impressive moments and the approaching sunrise over the Serengeti with our cameras.
It was now shortly after half past six when our pilot gave us last instructions for the flight. And then it happened:
Balloon flight over the Serengeti!
Which, in fact, started in horizontal position as the hot air balloon is only raised directly to the start. Shortly afterwards, the amazement began, and lasted pretty much for the entire flight. We flew for some time only about one meter above the ground. This low altitude flight allowed us to see the countless impalas at close range. From the following changing altitude we could marvel not only at the sun rising higher and higher, but also at giraffes, elephants and countless other animals. We shared this incomparable experience with only a few other passengers. During the high season, up to 16 participants can be accommodated in the gondola of a large balloon, while smaller gondolas can accommodate up to 12 people.
After a good hour flight over the Serengeti, which can last shorter or longer depending on the weather, we finally landed. After landing, our pilot told us about the tradition of a glass of champagne after each balloon flight and we enjoyed a bit of the sparkling liquid. Finally, we set off for a breakfast together. In the midst of the Serengeti, a richly laid table awaited us, which put a great end to this extremely impressive event.
Around ten o’clock in the morning we were finally back at Thorn Tree Camp, where we had spent the previous night. Together with our guide Michael we went on a last short game drive through the Serengeti before we left the national park. On our way back to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the Ngorongoro Crater we saw again enormous herds of wildebeest and zebras. After about two hours we reached the entrance of the Ngorongoro National Park. The entrance is located at the crater rim, from where you have a fabulous view into the crater.
The Ngorongoro Crater is the largest inactive volcanic crater in the world with an intact ecosystem. The Ngorongoro Crater was created by the collapse of a former volcanic mountain. The crater has a massive bottom of about 264 square kilometers with a depth of over 600 meters. It’s about three times the size of Paris. The descent into the crater was quite fast, so we had enough time to explore the crater. We had already seen some animals in the two previous national parks Lake Manyara and Serengeti. The large number of animals in the crater (up to 25,000 larger mammals) was nevertheless impressive. We also saw from a distance one of the rare rhinoceroses. The enormous and partly cloudy rock walls surrounding the crater give this national park a very special character.
Towards the end of the afternoon game drive we drove towards the crater wall to leave the national park. Once more, we could admire the impressive elephants of the park. Shortly before 6 pm we finally reached the exit of the Ngorongoro Crater National Park. The night we spent at Karatu Simba Lodge. The lodge is located in Karatu, near the small village of Mto Wa Mbu, in the middle of plantations and offers a beautiful view over the landscape.
Last but not least – Tarangire National Park
For the last day of our safari we had planned a game drive through Tarangire National Park. Like the days before we started quite early. After about an hour drive, we reached the park. The Tarangire National Park is one of Tanzania’s most famous national parks and is known for its diverse flora and fauna. It is also home to one of the largest elephant populations in the country. Accordingly, we also had the chance to see the pachyderms up close. In addition, we could watch lions and numerous other wild animals one last time. We were impressed by the numerous termite buildings, some of them meters high. These line the entire park, as well as the Baobab trees, some of which are centuries old. Baobab trees, also called monkey bread trees, are widespread in Africa and impress by their often meter-thick trunks as well as partly bizarre shape. Especially during the dry season their bark serves elephants as a source of water, which is why lower parts of tree trunks often have huge scratches.
In the afternoon we finally left Tarangire National Park and thus ended our safari through the national parks Lake Manyara, Serengeti, Ngorongoro and Tarangire. These are four great national parks that differ considerably, despite having a similar flora and fauna. Lake Manyara National Park, for example, impresses with its large lake and countless bird species. The Seregenti, on the other hand, is much drier and less densely overgrown. The Ngorongoro Crater captivates by its cloudy crater wall as well as an enormous number of animals on only a few square kilometers. The Tarangire National Park is home to one of the largest populations of animals and, thanks to its size, offers extensive and varied excursions.
Since the animal species are similar in all national parks, we strongly recommend enjoying the game drives and not stressing if you have not seen a particular animal in a park. The following day will again give the chance to do so. Like that, we had a great time on safari!