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Trip Report Day 8 (Feb 12-23 total trip time)

Pasco, Washington
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Trip Report Day 8 (Feb 12-23 total trip time)

The next morning, well this was after a loud night of animals very near. I didn’t know until later what was wandering in the camp. I assumed it was the buffalo, since we had seen some near. Our wake up call at 4:30, which meant someone coming to our tent, never happened. For some reason the entire trip, I was awake before any alarms. Even this early one. I woke up at 4:35am on my own and we hurried to get ready for the pickup from the balloon company. We found out that our staff could not get us because there were lions outside their area! I don’t blame them!

In the dark, we head to pick up some other people from another camp on the way to the launch site. I will say that I give credit for these guys driving down those roads, in pure darkness except for headlights, and knowing where to turn! I guess they are used to it, but I never knew where we were. I include our guide David in knowing during all the driving we did in this park. It isn’t like the crater!

We arrive at the launch site to find that 4 balloons are going up today. There is no wind, no clouds, it appears to be a great day for a ride. We watch them get the balloons ready, and then get safety instructions and instructions on how to load ourselves into the basket. The baskets are placed on their side and we had to climb up an into to our little partition. We had 15 on our balloon. Then as the sun started rising, up we went! So peaceful it was, you could hardly notice it. We were the first ones up and almost hit the top of the balloon downwind of us. It was so peaceful, calm, and a joy. Not many animals were seen though, which was really ok, it took the pressure off from taking photos, and instead just enjoying the ride.

There was a person next to us, that we noticed about ½ way through who was slowly releasing a bag of cremated remains. Made me wonder of the person had never lived the dream to visit the Serengeti and finally was, or had, and decided that this is the place they wanted to remain.

As we were landing, the pilot saw a cobra, but it went into a hole before we could get a look. After this, we headed to meet the other balloonists for a toast of champagne, then off to breakfast outside. Was a nice morning.

After arriving back at the Visitors Center, David was waiting and we headed out for the day’s viewing.

We found an area of large rocks and found a female lion up on the top resting. There was a male there as well and ended up following him, and got a ‘lion king’ shot . Also saw the lizards, which in the recent Discovery Channel show on Africa showed around the lions, as the lions brings flies, the lizards eat them.

Saw a hyena lounging in a mud bog, same with African buffalo, hartebeest, warthogs, some hippos etc. It was a warm day and the animals were feeling it! As were we.

Then the goldmine! A leopard. She was up in a tree, David noticed that she was changing positions so he felt that she wasn’t comfortable. We stayed, as he was so concerned we found out about not seeing a leopard on our trip. THEN, she starts down the tree! She heads the other direction, so we haul ourselves to the road on the other side, I was standing up to see her in the tall grass. We see her and she has something in sight and I see her crouch in the grass so I know a kill is imminent, so we back up and park. . I was getting my video camera out, and a vehicle parked to our left (she was to our left) and was pulled forward, and as I was powering on the camera WHAM! I see her jump UP and grab a guinea fowl in the air! WOW the crowd went wild. I caught her on video just after as she was walking back to her tree.

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So we haul back over there, and see her walk back to a bush at the bottom of the tree. THEN, in the tree to the right, the little leopard cub comes down and walks over to enjoy the meal with momma. All the witnesses were very excited to see this. Not like pulling down a zebra, but to see a leopard in anything but a tree was a treat. Our guide David had never seen a kill before himself.

This ended this day, and what an exciting finish it was. Back to camp for dinner and our final night in the Serengeti. Had a great dinner, the camp was full and met 3 women from America (2 were on a 2 year contract in Uganda at an international school, the 3rd was their friend from NYC who was there for 2 months, they were also with Access2Tanzania.

I never could figure out where the meals were being cooked here in this camp, but they were great!

Minneapolis...
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1. Re: Trip Report Day 8 (Feb 12-23 total trip time)

riding along with you, thanks!

Madison, Wisconsin
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2. Re: Trip Report Day 8 (Feb 12-23 total trip time)

Is the balloon ride worth the $400 price tag?

Pasco, Washington
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3. Re: Trip Report Day 8 (Feb 12-23 total trip time)

I'd say yes. Never been on one, and probably won't again. I had the mindset 'while in Rome". I did great white shark cage dive in Cape Town too. It was expensive, but once you see the number of vehicles they had out gathering people, 4 balloons, getting them ready, then the teams picking us up, driving us to champagne toast, then driving for breakfast all included, then back to visitors center. Takes quite a team. That opened my eyes to the price.

Delaware
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4. Re: Trip Report Day 8 (Feb 12-23 total trip time)

Were you not concerned after the recent balloon incident in Egypt? I, like you, would've had the 'when in Rome' motto and done it but now I'm thinking I really don't need to ever go up in a balloon.

Pasco, Washington
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5. Re: Trip Report Day 8 (Feb 12-23 total trip time)

The Egypt incident happened after my ride by a few days. There was also a video about a shark getting too close to a cage in Cape Town a couple weeks after I got back. I didn't feel unsafe in either activity.We were not real high in the balloon, maybe at the start, but due to the breeze, came down lower.

Ottawa, Canada
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6. Re: Trip Report Day 8 (Feb 12-23 total trip time)

Thanks for this installment.

I also did a balloon ride in the Serengeti, with the reasoning - if I was going to have one balloon ride in my life, I wanted it to be there.

I would have no more fears about a balloon ride there than anywhere in North America. Accidents happen, but I found the staff very professional. The balloons were in excellent shape. The operators have been doing this for decades, and often around the world. Mine was a Canadian trained in the US who just preferred to do this job in Africa. He was very clear about his qualifications before he took us up. If the weather is not conducive or safe to launch - they don't.

Delaware
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7. Re: Trip Report Day 8 (Feb 12-23 total trip time)

QM, I didn't mean to imply I would have more fears because it was in that location -- or any location - just that hearing about accidents sort of makes me question whether or not it's a risk worth taking anywhere. Life is about risk, I know, but for me perhaps the reward of ballooning doesn't really outweigh that risk. Plus I'm already afraid of heights!

I wondered if that Egyptian incident was fresh in their minds as they went up but as she said it hadn't happened yet.

Manchester-by-the-Se...
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8. Re: Trip Report Day 8 (Feb 12-23 total trip time)

Sheri, we asked for a tour of the kitchen before we left Serengeti Wilderness Camp. You wouldn't believe it! Two very large cook tops and ovens, loads of counter space, a huge pantry. A very large water tank and everything heated with gas. There appeared to be three cooks there already working hard for dinner when we visited just after lunchtime.

Nassau, New...
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9. Re: Trip Report Day 8 (Feb 12-23 total trip time)

Sounds like you had an amazing time - hot air ballooning and a leaping leopard (sorry, just had to say it lol) - all in one day. Thanks for posting.

Nassau, New...
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10. Re: Trip Report Day 8 (Feb 12-23 total trip time)

P.S. Bizeesheri - I can't seem to find your Days 4 & 5. Was wondering where to look...? Thanks :)