At Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, be on the lookout for giraffes, zebra, hippos, monkeys, leopards—and a pride of lions sleeping in a tree.
Photography and Text by Sophie Novack
We lay on our sides in near-darkness as a fire was lit above us. The giant balloon filled and the basket we were crouched in rotated and raised upward. The hot air balloon lifted off the ground as the sun rose, lighting the Serengeti plains below in a soft orange glow. Herds of zebra and wildebeest ran ahead as we floated through the air in what looked like a warmly lit painting.
The sunrise hot air balloon trip by Serengeti Balloon Safaris should not be missed. The exhilarating one-hour ride is followed by a champagne breakfast, with a full hot meal and coffee served on long tables covered in white linen, in the middle of a field.
The balloon ride is an hour or two drive through the park from the Four Seasons Serengeti, in the middle of Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. The resort melds rustic charm, Maasai tradition and high-end luxury in the middle of incredible wildlife. You can eat breakfast with a wide, expansive view overlooking the park. Swim or relax on the pool deck as an elephant and her babies drink from the watering hole a few feet away. Take a break inside a plush, comfortable suite while watching a baboon sit on your private back deck. Enjoy a private bush dinner, complete with elegant table settings, fine food and drinks, twinkle lights and dedicated servers in the middle of the park.
A clear highlight of the Four Seasons Serengeti experience is the game drive through the National Park, set up through the resort for a full or half day. The car itself is comfortable and packed with water, delicious ginger beer and snacks. The drives are always a matter of luck, to a certain extent, in terms of what you’ll see, but the guides are extremely knowledgeable and friendly, and have an incredible ability to spot a leopard sleeping in a tree, or a lion crouching in high grass from about a mile away. They are able to make passengers feel safe and secure, while successfully navigating the car a couple yards away from a group of male lions.
“Our car was surrounded by hundreds of thousands of zebra stretching for miles, many just a few feet away.”
Go during the Great Migration to see huge herds of zebra and wildebeest; at multiple points during the game drive, our car was surrounded by hundreds of thousands of zebra stretching for miles, many just a few feet away. On one evening a family of elephants crossed the road right in front of us. We saw giraffes, hippos, ostriches, monkeys, vultures, leopards and more. On one afternoon we found ourselves parked at the base of a huge tree, staring up at 13 lions sleeping or lazing in its branches.
After a day exploring the park, return to the Four Seasons for a relaxing treatment at the Spa, with six freestanding treatment areas that overlook the park. Relax to sounds of wildlife as you enjoy a 90-minute Kifaa massage, a full-body signature treatment that uses a “rungu”—a baton made of wood that represents the warrior status in the Maasai culture—and traditional Tanzanian baobab oil for a deep, relaxing massage. The spa also offers yoga classes, either group classes on the pool deck that must be booked a day in advance or private lessons in the guest’s villa. In the evenings, Maasai at the resort can take guests on a short hike to the top of the sunset kopje on property for a guided meditation from the yogi and panoramic views of the sunset over the park.
End your day with a gin and tonic or glass of Amarula (a creamy African liqueur), as the sun sets over the Serengeti. fourseasons.com/serengeti/