Hot Air balloon pilot Captain Abeid Soka has become part of an exclusive group of balloon pilots who flew over the peaks of Mount Kilimanjaro.
22 December 2021 – Captain Abeid Soka, the chief pilot at Serengeti Balloon Safaris, flew over the peaks of Mount Kilimanjaro, and is the first Tanzanian to do so.
‘We took off from Usseri, very near the Kenya border on the eastern side of the mountain and ascended steeply through the clouds, within 55 minutes we were above the height of Mawenzi, Kilimanjaro’s second highest peak, before descending over the saddle and climbing again,’ Soka said.
There were 11 hot air balloons in total, each with two pilots selected from the best across the globe. The congress of hot air balloons also included pilot Josep Maria Llado, the world’s number one pilot along with other international pilots.
The pilots were breathing oxygen from 3 000 metres as an important safety measure with their fast climb. Pretty soon, they were flying over the crater of Kibo, the highest point on the African continent.
‘Carrying my Tanzanian flag as I looked down deep into the crater was an incredibly proud moment,’ Captain Soka said. ‘It was amazingly clear up there, that image will never leave me.’
After clearing the summit and stabilizing the flight in the downward moving air currents, the balloons flew low over Shira plateau, across the Londorrosi forest and out over the farmlands of West Kilimanjaro before selecting a clear space for a gentle landing.
Captain Soka comes from the Chagga tribe and grew up on the southern slopes of Kilimanjaro, making this achievement especially significant for him.
He has been chief balloon pilot of Serengeti Balloon Safaris since 2015 and is now back in Serengeti flying over much smaller peaks.
Tanzanians seem to like the news, as another balloon pilot Mohamed Masudi was sponsored by Serengeti Balloon Safaris to train in the United States, becoming the very first Tanzanian commercial hot-air balloon pilot.
Serengeti Balloon Safaris first started out in 1989 and recently carried its 200,000th passenger, making it one of the top balloon companies in the world. A balloon safari has become a ‘bucket list’ experience for many travellers. Serengeti Balloon Safaris also made passenger safety belts compulsory, becoming the only company to do so.
Balloons are sourced from the most credible manufacturers like Cameron Balloons and Ultramagic. Balloon envelopes are made from Nomex, Ultralast and Hyperlast fabrics that make the balloon very safe.
Just like aircraft, balloons are regularly inspected and all are retired well before they are considered legally or technically worn-out.
Like many other African countries, South Africa also offers balloon safaris to those seeking the ultimate safari experience.