The best view is from a balloon
Don’t get me wrong – it’s really nice to have running water, internet, and my pick of fresh vegetables from the weekend farmer’s market. But sometimes I miss the Serengeti. Watching from my window in Minnesota, I’m lucky if I see a squirrel. And let’s face it — squirrels are only so exciting, for so long.
One of my favorite ways to see the Serengeti was from the unbeatable vantage point of a hot air balloon. Yes, that’s right. We might not have an indoor toilet or fresh food, but we have hot air balloons. Okay, that’s not entirely correct: Serengeti Balloon Safaris has hot air balloons that fly tourists over the heart of the park. In fact, you’ve probably seen them floating past in the camera trap photos:
SBS has been flying balloons in Serengeti since the 1980’s, and has always helped us researchers out whenever they could, from letting us drag our hand-held tracking equipment up for flight to listen for lost lion prides, to letting us tinker with our Landrovers in their garage. In fact, they sponsored a lion cub during one of our fundraising campaigns a few years back – and now there’s a cub named “Balloo” living in the Mukoma Gypsies pride in the heart of Serengeti.
I went up for my first flight in 2010. George Lohay, Stan’s predecessor on the project, and I had to wake up at 4 am to make it to the launch field on time. That really is as terrible as it sounds, however, that morning it saved us from an invasion by the relentless carnivorous safari ants (siafu). Well, to be more exact, we were able to flee the house before the ants had invaded our beds, meaning we escaped with minimal damage. And by the time we returned that afternoon, the ants had already moved on.
I’ve been thinking about balloons lately because one of SBS’s pilots and a dear friend of the Serengeti Lion Project & Snapshot Serengeti, Jason Adams, is currently preparing to defend his title in Canada’s upcoming National Hot Air Ballooning Championships. Everyone in Serengeti and on the Snapshot team will be rooting for him. Good luck Jay!