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Ballooning over Busanga Plains

Ballooning over Busanga Plains

Wattled cranes fly in early morning mist in the Busanga Plains
Wattled cranes fly in early morning mist in the Busanga Plains
MIKE MYERS

 

A delicate early morning mist hung gently above the plains as we approached the launch site where Eric was already in the basket and firing up the gas burners to fill the huge multi-coloured balloon. Eric and his wife Nancy run the balloon experience in the Busanga Plains, Kafue, for Wilderness Safaris.

After a safety briefing that basically covers the two possible options for landing (one is a landing and the other is a ‘sports’ landing!) we lifted gently off the ground. It is such a gentle feeling that you do not realise that you are actually up in the air. The stillness is only interrupted with the blasts of the gas burner that Eric opened from time to time to manage the hot air which drives the balloon.

Ballooning is not an exact science, owing to the fact that you are dependent on the strength and direction of the winds. At one stage we were high and the wind speed was 50km per hour, so Eric brought the balloon down lower and our speed dropped. He can bring the basket down so low that you can actually feel the grass tickle the wicker. There are some flights where they just skim above hippo in the water and are also able to follow buffalo, lechwe and even lion closely and quietly.

We were treated to wonderful sights: we flew with birds, we floated over water, we watched two huge herds of elephant cross the plains to get to the woodland, and we spied an impressive herd of buffalo in the distance. The tree line approached much quicker than we realised and very soon we were preparing for our landing.

We had a ‘semi-sports’ landing. That is to say that the basket did not fall over completely and drag along the ground. We just floated gently down and then there was one bump and we lifted up again and then another bump and a tilt over slightly and then we regained our upright position safely touched down. All very gentle, but so spectacular.

If you are planning to be in Busanga Plains, and you get all the way there, make sure you have at least one balloon ride. Take your binoculars, camera and video because you are going to need them all. Just make sure too though that you also take a moment to take it all in – and not just from behind a lens.

Read more about the region in our destination guide:
Kafue

Read more articles from this issue:
Zambezi Traveller (Issue 14, Sept 2013)

Zambezi Traveller Directory:
Wilderness Safaris Busanga Bush Camp (Kafue, Zambia)
Shumba Camp (Kafue, Zambia)