Game-viewing from a hot air balloon
Did you know?
South Africa’s Gauteng and North West provinces boast some of the world's best hot air ballooning weather.
It's never possible to guarantee what game you will see on any safari, but your chances are good for great sightings when you go game-viewing from a hot air balloon.
You'll wake up before sunrise, be taken to the launch site, clamber into the balloon basket and then off you go drifting over the African bush just as it comes to life for a new day.
Although lions and leopards are nocturnal animals, it's not unusual to see them during the early hours of the morning. Maybe the lions are feasting on last night's kill, maybe that leopard slinking along the road is on her way back to her cubs. That's the charm when you go on any safari – you never know what's round the next corner.
Bill Harrop of Bill Harrop's Original Balloon Safaris flies aerial safaris in the game-rich Mabula Private Reserve in the Bela Bela area of the Limpopo province. He also offers balloon safaris over Entabeni in the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve, a World Heritage Site that covers 22 000ha of bushveld, ravines, savanna and wetlands.
There's nothing quite like drifting silently over an ancient landscape searching for the Big Five. There's a dazzle of zebras prancing along; there, a journey of giraffes; there a crash of rhinos. Because you are above the animals, they take no notice of your flight and you can watch them going about their ways undisturbed.
You can also take an aerial safari at Pilanesberg Game Reserve, adjacent to Sun City in the North West province. At 55 000ha, Pilansberg is South Africa's fourth biggest game reserve and it lies in the caldera of a 1.3 million-year-old extinct volcano. From your high perch you'll literally get a bird's-eye-view of its lush valleys, dams, mountains and plains teeming with game.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Bill Harrop’s Original Balloon Safaris
Tel: +27 (0)11 705 3201
Cell: +27 (0) 83 443 2661/2/3
Tel: +27 (0)82 451 6731
Tel: +27 (0)14 552 5020
How to get here
Bill Harrop's Original Balloon Safaris will provide you with detailed directions to get to Entabeni and Mabula Game Reserve. For the Pilanesberg Game Reserve take the N4 north from Johannesburg towards Polokwane. Take the N4 Rustenburg split and follow the Pilanesberg signs on route 91.
Best time to visit
As long as weather conditions are suitable, you can go ballooning at any time of year.
What will it cost
Prices vary, but usually start at around R2 500 per person.
Length of stay
An aerial hot air balloon safari lasts approx. 3 hours.
What to pack
Binoculars, camera and warm clothing.
Where to stay
The Waterberg Biosphere Reserve, Mabula Game Reserve and Pilanesberg Game Reserve all have various accommodation options, from basic self-catering campsites to luxurious game lodges.
What to eat
A hearty post-trip breakfast is generally included in your hot air ballooning package.