Hot Air Balooning


Aug 10th, 2003, 12:08 PM
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Hot Air Balooning

There is no better way to see the wildlife in Kenya and Tanzania then to go hot air ballooning. It is an incredible experience.
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Aug 11th, 2003, 07:39 AM
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It's something we are strongly considering doing, particulary since reading more threads about this.

May I ask what company you used, and whether it was set up through a tour company planning the rest of your trip, or if you contacted them on your own?

Any other tips (like not wearing sandals, bringing a jacket & plenty of film, etc.)?
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Aug 13th, 2003, 07:23 AM
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If you go ballooning in the Serengeti there is only one company - their name is incredibly obvious and of course I cant remember it right now. Search on google for Serengeti Balloon Safaris and you will find it (that may even be the name!)

We booked the night before we went and had no problem with spaces (10 people on our flight, they have 2 balloons one that takes 12 and one 16). However we were there in June and it was comparatively quiet. The company had a desk at the Sopa Lodge where we stayed where we could book. We had told our guide at the beginning of the tour that we might be interested, and when we said we wanted to do it he radioed ahead to the lodge to let them know we would be booking.

One point from our guide which was good advice - book for the FIRST day you are in the area since weather may cancel the flight and you will have another chance. We went on the first day available to us and the conditions turned out perfectly - the next day the wind would have been too high and we would have been out of luck.

The Serengeti company was excellent and the experience was absolutely amazing. I hadnt believed it would be worth the money but I emerged completely convinced it was worth every penny and more.

Lots of great tips in recent threads about clothing, packing etc.

The following is about our experience with film, since it is an often asked question and I found each opinion different and useful when we were planning. We took 75 rolls of film for 15 days in East Africa and used 50 in the end (2 people one P&S one SLR camera. We werent profligate, but it was nice to have the luxury of knowing that conserving pictures wasnt mandatory).

As others have said, there isnt as much light as you think there is, particularly once you start adding zoom lenses, polarizers etc. We took 400 speed film and were very pleased (yes I know we havent got the website up yet! We are working on it! Sorry! ).

Also, test the film in your cameras before you go. Take the test films to the place you plan to get your photos developed. We amused the neighbors by getting 3 kinds of 400 speed film and putting clothes of various colours as well as black/white/beige on the lawn in sun and shade and taking photos at auto setting then over and under exposing.

We thought we were being silly before we got the pictures back but were very pleased we made the 6 roll of film investment. We tried Kodak RG400, Fuji Superia 400 and Agfa Vista 400. The best result for us was, surprisingly, Agfa Vista 400 - a low contrast film with good colour reproduction across the spectrum. We also found that overexposure by 1 stop gave the best results but for -2 to +2 exposure range (even to +5 on photography boards) this film was fine. Good for us with our slightly uncertain photography skills! Contrary to other peoples experiences in our hands Fuji was a bit of a disaster.
Others have had great results with Fuji so this is obviously something that varies with equipment, developer and personal preference.

Have a great time!
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Aug 13th, 2003, 11:42 AM
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Try this site for hot air ballooning on the Serengeti. Lots of info there and lots of pictures taken from a balloon and at the balloon:
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Aug 13th, 2003, 01:16 PM
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Thanks Liz! I've checked out that site and which runs in the Mara.

nkh, that's a GREAT idea about photography, especially since we'll probably be getting a new camera (or borrowing one) specifically for this trip. We're pretty used to what the digital can do, but are very much out of our league when it comes to professional style 35mm.

Any other tips, especially as they relate to the day of the ride (I'm guessing a lot of alcohol the night before is a very BAD idea) are appreciated!
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Aug 13th, 2003, 06:40 PM
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Oh, and what about tipping?

Silly me, just discovered that the cost is not $385 total, but rather per person! Amazing how quickly this trip is becomming very expensive... no complaints though!
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Aug 14th, 2003, 05:55 AM
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Hi Hlphilips2

Liz has found the site for the Serengeti company - we went in their Simba balloon.

Tips for the balloon - dont take too much stuff since you need to secure it under your feet at takeoff/landing and there is limited space. Take binoculars. Take cameras. It was a surprisingly tranquil experience so no airsickness problems at all (however lots to drink is indeed probably a bad idea, since you have to get up REALLY early!). It is much colder at altitude than on the ground, so take/wear a fleece. You dont need a hat at that time of the morning, and you wont get it back if it blows off

Camera for SLR photography - we bought ours at Christmas, and got a bit of practice in over the next 6 months. We have a great photography store nearby that helped us lots and we were very pleased with what they recommended.

There are several good photographers on this board who can and have provided tips previously - far out of my league! Their posts really helped us. The following is what we ended up with which suited our needs very well, hopefully providing information for those at similar "oh my I am off to Africa and had better learn to take good pictures" skill levels

Nikon F65 SLR camera (N65 in US I think) with 20-80mm lens and 70-300 mm lens (f4-5.6) - not the most expensive Nikon lenses, but they worked really nicely. Both have UV filters that just stay on (also protect lenses). One polarizer that fits the 70-300 zoom, and a conversion ring that makes it fit the smaller lens. One lightweight tripod (only used it at lodges, but my husband has done astronomy so wanted to take night pictures). 2 beanbags for propping cameras on van roofs - made ourselves, essential!

The advantage of this SLR (and most new ones of course) is it has fully automatic mode so can be used as a point and shoot. It also has a range of modes (aperture priority, shutter priority, fully manual etc. etc.) so you can gradually get "more" manual the more experienced you get. For our trip we shot on aperture priority (control how much depthwise of the picture is in focus), set the camera to automatically overexpose by +1, and let it take care of exposure times. We switched between manual and auto focus depending on shot - sometimes with animal in grass auto-focus will focus on the grass not the animal, for example. The polarizer did make a difference especially for landscapes (Kilimanjaro was visible in polarizer photo, not in the one without it)

Also we have a Canon point and shoot with zoom lens that we used partially as backup and partially for different type of pictures. Our approach worked out to be "landscapes, people pictures, wide shots with point and shoot, closeups etc with SLR" This was partially so we could minimize dirt getting into the SLR when we changed lenses.

Definitely practice with your camera before you go - remembering where the buttons are really helps! Also, take the instruction manuals with you just in case. I had an experience in the middle of the balloon ride where I accidentally opened the back of the point and shoot before it had finished rewinding the film (argh!) and then it automatically wound on as a new film when I shut the back - crouching in the basket I was reading the manual to find the button to force the film to rewind.....Fortunately only took a minute to find, but I was glad I had the manual!
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