Safari finder

Its pitch dark, not even the birds are awake as I move around my spacious safari tent. I find a warm jacket, my sunglasses and camera and stumble sleepily across the footpath to the main reception area. Soon our group is on the back of a landrover and we’re bumping across the dirt track towards a glow in the distance. Its chilly in the pre-dawn air. We feel the heat from the hot flames roaring out the end of a huge gas burner as it feeds an acre of canvas with hot air as we draw near. The red, purple and yellow balloon is inflating slowly, a team of helpers run around holding tightly to a network of ropes. Soon the balloon towers over us and the passenger basket starts to levitate off the ground.

We’re instructed by the pilot where to get in and clamber over the edge of the basket, holding on tight to the leather straps attached to the side of the basket. Its not surprising the age group is restricted to 12 plus as the basket is deep and comes half way up my chest. The burners roar louder, heat swirls hotly down into the basket and we realise we’re floating forward and upward. A spurt of adrenalin rushes through my blood, we’re getting higher, too far to jump out now.

The dawn is breaking and we see a small herd of roan antelope cantering in slow motion below us. Hippo lie in small pods in the muddy waterways. The top of a tree appears out of the early morning mist; an Egyptian goose preening itself in a fork of a branch is startled out of its morning toilet. Islands of palm trees look tiny below and from up here its clear to see the network of animal paths criss crossing across the grassy plains.

At the end of a heavenly hour we descend ending with a tumble of the basket onto the earth, tipping over to our side with much laughter. Our vehicles are waiting and we are swiftly transported to a long table set under a large tree for a champagne breakfast.

There isn’t much to beat the experience of a hot air balloon flight over the Kafue savannah. Life feels complete.

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