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Pioneers of the African skies

As the first company to set a balloon aloft over the Serengeti, we have set the bar high for an exceptional adventure, delivered with safety at the forefront of our minds, and with our passenger's experience as a priority. From the outset, we've established ourselves as partners in conservation in the Parks in which we operate and we take an active role in ensuring ballooning standards are rigorously maintained. We've had to learn the vagaries of the weather from firsthand experience and as such, there are no more experienced pilots than those that fly the green and gold of Serengeti Balloon Safaris. We are adventurers at heart, with a penchant for detail and quality, and with each balloon that flies we know we're doing something extraordinarily well.

1984

The seed of an adventure

Coincidence brought two like-minded adventurers together and the seed of a new idea began to grow. Colin MacKinnon, a pioneer of commercial ballooning in the UK and an early hot air balloon pilot in Kenya’s Maasai Mara, wanted to fly balloons over the Serengeti. Tony Pascoe had experience of running luxury camps and a safari business in East Africa and was excited by the prospect of such a venture. It was a good match and they began working out how to make their dream a reality.

Timeline Image
Timeline Image

1989

Getting things off the ground

Ballooning was completely new to Tanzania, and it took five long years for Colin and Tony, together with their wives Sally and Marijka and their new Tanzanian partner, Jimmy Mkwawa, to get all the permissions and licences in place. They finally placed an order for their first 8-passenger balloon from Cameron Balloons, the world’s leading balloon manufacturer, in the ‘acacia-green’ and ‘savannah-gold’ of the Serengeti.

1991

Proving it can be done

The first balloon took to the skies above the vast plains of the Serengeti. Those first years were tough as visitors to the Park were few; there was only one safari lodge and a handful of camps fed by infrequent flights to the park. It also took time to win over the sceptics and demonstrate the company’s commitment and environmental responsibility, which it did thereby winning the unwavering support of tour operators and conservationists alike.

Timeline Image
Timeline Image

1993

Smoothing rough edges

Serengeti Balloon Safaris took delivery of the first 16-passenger balloon – the largest commercial balloon in the world. Colin continued to refine the company’s operation, logistics and safety while Tony focussed on marketing the experience to tourism partners around the world.

2001

The first Tanzanian pilot

Mohamed Masudi was sponsored by Serengeti Balloon Safaris to train in the United States, became the very first Tanzanian commercial hot-air balloon pilot. The company continues to recruit experienced local and international pilots, all trained to the highest possible standards. Serengeti Balloon Safaris made passenger safety belts compulsory, becoming the only company to do so. It also improved safe flying practice by reducing the maximum wind speed for take-off from 15 to 8 knots, and the maximum altitude to 2000ft above ground level.

Timeline Image
Timeline Image

2019

On every bucket-list

Serengeti Balloon Safaris carried its 200,000th passenger, making it one of the top balloon companies in the world. A Serengeti Balloon Safari has become a ‘bucket list’ experience for many travellers on a safari in Tanzania, one that has featured in the media around the world. Members of royal families, presidents, Heads of State and celebrities have all been borne aloft under the green and gold of a Serengeti Balloon.

1984

The seed of an adventure

Coincidence brought two like-minded adventurers together and the seed of a new idea began to grow. Colin MacKinnon, a pioneer of commercial ballooning in the UK and an early hot air balloon pilot in Kenya’s Maasai Mara, wanted to fly balloons over the Serengeti. Tony Pascoe had experience of running luxury camps and a safari business in East Africa and was excited by the prospect of such a venture. It was a good match and they began working out how to make their dream a reality.

Timeline Image

1989

Getting things off the ground

Ballooning was completely new to Tanzania, and it took five long years for Colin and Tony, together with their wives Sally and Marijka and their new Tanzanian partner, Jimmy Mkwawa, to get all the permissions and licences in place. They finally placed an order for their first 8-passenger balloon from Cameron Balloons, the world’s leading balloon manufacturer, in the ‘acacia-green’ and ‘savannah-gold’ of the Serengeti.

Timeline Image

1991

Proving it can be done

The first balloon took to the skies above the vast plains of the Serengeti. Those first years were tough as visitors to the Park were few; there was only one safari lodge and a handful of camps fed by infrequent flights to the park. It also took time to win over the sceptics and demonstrate the company’s commitment and environmental responsibility, which it did thereby winning the unwavering support of tour operators and conservationists alike.

Timeline Image

1993

Smoothing rough edges

Serengeti Balloon Safaris took delivery of the first 16-passenger balloon – the largest commercial balloon in the world. Colin continued to refine the company’s operation, logistics and safety while Tony focussed on marketing the experience to tourism partners around the world.

Timeline Image

2001

The first Tanzanian pilot

Mohamed Masudi was sponsored by Serengeti Balloon Safaris to train in the United States, became the very first Tanzanian commercial hot-air balloon pilot. The company continues to recruit experienced local and international pilots, all trained to the highest possible standards. Serengeti Balloon Safaris made passenger safety belts compulsory, becoming the only company to do so. It also improved safe flying practice by reducing the maximum wind speed for take-off from 15 to 8 knots, and the maximum altitude to 2000ft above ground level.

Timeline Image

2019

On every bucket-list

Serengeti Balloon Safaris carried its 200,000th passenger, making it one of the top balloon companies in the world. A Serengeti Balloon Safari has become a ‘bucket list’ experience for many travellers on a safari in Tanzania, one that has featured in the media around the world. Members of royal families, presidents, Heads of State and celebrities have all been borne aloft under the green and gold of a Serengeti Balloon.

Timeline Image

Meet the Team

Tony Pascoe

Founder

Born in 1947 and raised in Somerset, UK, Tony was fascinated with the natural world from a very young age. As a five year old at primary school, he would enthusiastically lead the class nature walks in the surrounding countryside. At six years old, he did not have an ambition to be a train driver or cowboy, but wanted to be a warden in the Serengeti when he grew up. In 1970, Tony moved to Kenya and found a job managing game lodges and camps in some of the country’s most wild and beautiful national parks. He met Marijka, a young Canadian adventurer and they together explored East Africa and married. Their first child, Tania, was born at Oloitokitok Hospital at the foot of Mt Kilimanjaro. Their son Ivan was born two years later in UK. They returned to England in 1979 and, in something of a departure, Tony established a business with his father Rick, manufacturing Pascoe’s Complete Dog Food. In 1988, they sold, having built the company into the most successful producer of complete dog food in the UK. At this point, Tony could no longer ignore his yearning for Africa and he set about starting his own small safari company, personally escorting clients on safari to Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Botswana. In 1984 Tony and Colin met by chance in the UK. Colin had previously been flying hot air balloons in Kenya’s Masai Mara and had the ambition to start a balloon safari in the Serengeti National Park. They formed a company, pooled ideas and invested their savings to pioneer the first balloon safari company in Tanzania. Serengeti Balloon Safaris’ first commercial flight was in 1989.

Colin MacKinnon

Founder

Colin’s early life was coloured vividly by the nature and wildlife of Alaska where he came across bears, moose and even a wild cat in the basement. It wasn't your run of the mill childhood; Colin's father's job as an RAF pilot meant that the buzz and hum of airfields was part of daily life, feeding his young son's restlessness with the promise of far-flung adventures. The airfields were a haven for wildlife so from a young age, nature and flight became dual passions. That said, Colin also dabbled with writing, art and screen-printing as a young man in London in the 1960s, before moving with his wife Sally to the countryside where they bought a 15th century house with a bit of land and started a small-holding. A first flight in a friend’s balloon cemented his trajectory into “lighter than air” aviation and Colin bought his first balloon, which he launched from his garden in Suffolk, England. In 1982 he started “Cirrus, an introduction to balloon flying” which proved popular with guests at a country house, as did the sheepskin jacket that Sally made to keep him warm during chilly flights over the Suffolk plains. In 1981 he had taken a year’s contract to fly in Kenya’s Masai Mara where he got his first peek at Tanzania, and the wilds of Africa stayed with him. He returned to Africa in 1987 where stories of Tanzania from a chance meeting in Zimbabwe, prompted him to fly north to investigate. From his jump-seat next to the pilot, he got a good view of Tanzania and the subsequent meetings with Jimmy Mkwawa and Tony Pascoe crystallised the beginnings of Serengeti Balloon Safaris.

Abeid Soka

Chief Pilot

Abeid grew up in Kilimanjaro and has been a balloon pilot since 2007. While guiding guests in the Serengeti one day, he was offered a flight and was immediately hooked. He hassled Tony and Colin every week until they gave him the opportunity to train, which he did in Italy and the USA. He is an exceptional pilot with a deep understanding of local flying conditions based on his years of experience, and he has arguably the best smile in the business. A passionate advocate of ballooning over the Serengeti, he fully expects some of his four children to follow in his wake. He’s had some pretty amazing moments while flying, among which are several successful cheetah and lion hunts and a playful lion cub that tried to chase the balloon.

Guydon Gerreta

Operations Manager

Guydon has the unenviable responsibility of keeping things running smoothly on the ground, which is a surprising amount considering our safari is largely up in the air. Having been brought up in the balmy seaside town of Dar Es Salaam, he moved up-country and started out working in camps and lodges as Front Office Manager, giving him an ample understanding of what his safari guests are looking for in a professional outfit. He loves meeting people from all over the world and waxing lyrical about his wonderful country. It’s not all banter though, he rises way before the birds to make sure that all guests are collected and the ground-crews are dispatched with everything they need to get the balloons in the air and once they’re safely back down, a magnificent breakfast onto the table.

Joao Rodrigues

Pilot

Joao grew up in Portugal where he took to the sky early in his career as a paratrooper. He was part of a team that did regular skydiving exhibitions to attract volunteers to the army. Finding the exhibitions expensive and sometimes poorly attended, the General in charge branched out to ballooning and Joao was one of the lucky few that was chosen. He trained in Portugal under an English instructor and has since flown in Turkey and Spain. He is drawn to the combination of wildlife and landscapes of the Serengeti where he has been a Serengeti Balloon Safaris Pilot since 2008. He explains that the flights are just as magical for him as a pilot as for his passengers. One of the funniest things he’s witnessed was a lion that practically trod on a dozing wildebeest and got such a fright it ran away. Lucky wildebeest.

Shawn Glover

Pilot

Shawn was raised in Ottawa, Canada and he trained there and in Australia where he has also clocked up a lot of hours in balloons. It was a natural career for Shawn who comes from a family of balloonists and in fact he did is first landing at the age of 8 years old, fortunately with is father in attendance. Having joined SBS in 2014, Shawn has grown to love the landscape and wildlife and now lives full-time with his wife in the Serengeti. That said, he says that a smooth operation in such a remote location takes a great deal of teamwork, communication and a sense of advenutre, from both the crew and the passengers. Fortunately most of the time this is all in abundance. Shawn’s bucket-list includes flying a balloon over the Valley of Kings in Egypt.

Mohamed Masudi

Pilot

Mohamed was the very first Tanzanian commercial balloon pilot in the world, recruited by Serengeti Balloon Safaris in 1996 initially as ground crew, and then trained to fly balloons by the company in 2001. He has genuine enthusiasm for balloons and also for his country and while he has in the past hankered to fly elsewhere in the world, he also finds it hard to find any reason to leave the Serengeti. Mohamed will tell you that flying over the migration is something very special and second to that, watching the whole saga of a hunt unravel beneath you is impossible to describe. As a pioneer of ballooning in Tanzania, Mohamed would love one of his four children to follow in his footsteps but it looks as though his son will be a Doctor. Perhaps one of his daughters, then?

Orgeness Massawe

Assistant Operations Manager

Co-ordinating a morning’s balloon safari to go as smoothly as they do is quite a task. Although our ground crew and drivers are very experienced, planning the 4am pick-ups, so everyone arrives at the launch site at 6am, delivering our passengers to the correct balloon in the dark, ensuring the chase crews are at the landing spot before the balloon has arrived and overseeing the set-up of that sumptuous breakfast, all fall on the shoulders of Orgeness. Orgeness joined us in 2008 as a “Rep” - the person that briefs guests the evening before and brings them to the launch site. Like all of our staff, he gets stuck in wherever he’s needed from setting up breakfast to helping at the launch/landing. He was so organised and full of energy that he was given more responsibility and promoted, now he is the man who pulls all the puppet-strings to keep the operation as smooth as it is. Orgeness, has a wife and two children and he believes in ballooning and hard work for self-improvement!

Silvano Temba

Ground Operations

Silvano comes from the Dodoma region in Central Tanzania and has been with us since 2014. He’s most definitely a “people person” and as such, it is fitting that he should be responsible for the first impression that our passengers have of Serengeti Balloon Safaris. He’s very sensitive to the variety of nationalities, ages and backgrounds of the people that fly with us and conscientiously ensures that they are well briefed and that after their flight we find out how their experience has been. It’s a vital part of ensuring we continue to offer the best possible service and Silvano is just the man for the job. He sees some funny things in the course of his duties, amongst which was a warthog who decided to chase some lions who had been pestering him. Unfortunately that didn’t end well though so we wouldn’t advise anyone else to try it. Silvano likens the SBS team to the highly cooperative and hardworking termites and is a proud member of the colony!

Zumo Godliving

Pilot

Zumo is from the coastal Tanga region but he did his early studies in Arusha. His father was in the aviation industry working for Air Tanzania, however Zumo was drawn to the idea of flying without wings. When he met Abeid, he decided that one day he would learn to fly hot air balloons, which he did in Italy and the USA. He joined Serengeti Balloon Safaris in 2017 and loves the experience of viewing the wildlife from the air, particularly the migration. Zumo is very conscious of the trickier aspects of flying in the Serengeti and Ruaha but knows that an early night, thorough pre-flight preparations and good teamwork all contribute to a successful flight. He loves to fly in his native Tanzania and while it’s too early to tell if there’s another pilot in the family, his little ones are starting to take an interest in his work.

Ferrel Gray

Pilot

Ferrel took his first balloon ride on 7th December 1983 and was hooked. By January 1985 he had his commercial balloon license and went on started a successful balloon company in Southern California. By 1990 he had quit his job driving for UPS and took up ballooning full time. In 34 years as a commercial balloon pilot he has accumulated over 10,000 hours of hot air balloon flight time. Ferrel has flown hot air balloons all over the world including the Napa Valley, the Serengeti, Valley of the Kings in Egypt, Taiwan, The Alps & Dolomites in Italy and the beautiful Del Mar coastline. Many well known faces have appeared in his basket along the way; Will Smith, Cameron Diaz, William Devane, Tony Orlands, Justin Timberlake, Silvester Stallone, Michael Jackson, Carrie Otis, Mickey Rourke, Lenny Kravitz, Kathy Lee Grifford, Katie Couric and many more. However what Ferrel enjoys the most is sharing his love and enthusiasm for ballooning with everyone that he flies.

Frank Bellantoni

Pilot

Frank remembers looking down from the basket of a Serengeti Balloon and locking eyes with a leopard reclining in the top of an acacia tree, using the foliage like a bed. It’s one of many memorable moments he’s had in his career as a balloon pilot, and arguably less fragrant than the time he landed in a beautifully soft field in Canada, only to find it had been freshly covered with cow manure. The biggest challenges of a pilot, says Frank, are being able to multi-task, make good and quick decisions and communicate well, and above all, be a morning person! Frank has been a valuable member of our team for almost ten years now, but has flown in many places from Japan to Trinidad and all over the US, Canada and in Germany and the UK. He loves the Serengeti particularly for its wide-open spaces and wildlife.

Jonny Smith

Pilot

Jonny has wanted to fly balloons literally since he could just about walk; his first flight was at the age of 2. It helped having a father who flew balloons for a living and so Jonny was able to hop in the basket whenever there was a free space. As soon as he possibly could, he became a private balloon pilot (aged just 17) and went on to become the youngest commercial balloon pilot in the UK at the time, when he was barely out of his teens. Since then, Jonny has flown over Namibia, France, Germany, Switzerland, Ireland and Austria and flies regularly over the ancient temples of Bagan in Myanmar. He says that the sunrises over the Serengeti are pretty hard to beat and the amazing wildlife, spectacular scenery and tranquility keep drawing him back. It can be tough being away from friends and family for such long stretches but Jonny’s girlfriend understands as she’s a balloon pilot too (and has even built her own balloon!).

Barry Birch

Pilot

Barry was born in Lisburn, Northern Ireland where his father was an aircraft engineer and his mother a basket weaver. Perhaps their professions hinted at his own future, however he initially pursued the ancient Irish art of dry-stone walling. In July 1987, Richard Branson and Per Lindstrand crashed their transatlantic balloon into a stone-wall in County Londonderry. Taking this as a sign, Barry left his trade and took to the sky in a wicker basket, in a career that has seen him fly balloons in every continent except Australia and Antarctica. When asked why he loves flying in Tanzania, he replied “hearing the wildebeest laugh as we drift over the Serengeti, brings joy to my heart!”

Our Balloons

Since we first started out in 1989, we have taken care to source the best balloons from the most credible manufacturers. We work with suppliers Cameron Balloons, one of the oldest balloon manufacturers and Ultramagic, who have a long history of adventurous ballooning, to continually develop proprietary modifications that make our balloons stronger and safer. From the Lexan linings that create extra passenger protection, to the Nomex, Ultralast and Hyperlast fabrics that make our envelopes, a great deal of technology goes into making our balloons reliable and safe. Our balloons are regularly inspected and all are retired well before they are considered legally or technically worn-out.

Circled Balloon

A traditional design with extra strength

Baskets are made of woven wicker and leather, reinforced with stainless steel and Lexan sheeting.

Circled Balloon

Using the latest technology

Our envelopes are made of coated heavy duty fabrics reinforced with steel cables and Nomex fire-resistant bases for durability and safety.

Circled Balloon

Keeping you safe

All balloons are fitted with passenger safety seatbelts and a rapid deflation system.

Circled Balloon

Staying well within the limits

All balloons are retired well before the end of their technical lifespan.

Booking & FAQs

We partner with many reputable tour operators and you can book your wonderful balloon safari  through one of them. If you have any difficulty booking Serengeti Balloon Safaris at any point, please do get in touch using the form below:

Do I need to book in advance?

We do strongly recommend that you book in advance with your tour operator. We have limited capacity and this exclusive adventure is frequently fully booked. 

When is the best time of year for ballooning in Serengeti?

We are fortunate that the weather in the Serengeti is suitable for ballooning almost every day of the year. We fly in the following areas every morning:

Serengeti - Central – Year Round Serengeti/Ngorongoro - Ndutu - 20 Dec – 31 March

Serengeti - Western - June - October

Serengeti - Northern - July - November

Safari wildlife viewing varies depending on the time of year and location, and the wildebeest migration moves through the ecosystem year-round so although there are no guarantees, if you're in the right place at the right time, you have a good chance of seeing plenty of wildlife.

When is the best time of year for ballooning in Ruaha?

Ruaha has ideal conditions for ballooning. We currently fly every morning during the main season: Ruaha - June – October.

Things to see on safari here vary greatly from the Serengeti and the scenery and wildlife are both very different.

What about the "rainy season"?

We prefer to call them the GREEN SEASONS. The ‘long rains’ (late March to early June) & the ‘short rains’ (November to mid December). In the Serengeti, the great migration passes through Central Serengeti during the green seasons. At these times it USUALLY rains late afternoon and during the night. Mornings are USUALLY bright and clear with gentle winds (ideal ballooning weather!). The landscape is lush, green and dust free (yes, your vehicle may get stuck in the mud – but our balloon won’t!) In Ruaha – rains tend to fall from November to April/May. During the rest of the year, rain is unusual but as ever, we can’t completely predict the weather.

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