Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA) has suspended the operation of hot air balloons in the Serengeti national park. The decision comes in the aftermath of the recent hot air balloon crash-landing which resulted in the deaths of two tourists from America and Denmark, and left the other eight passengers in a critical condition.
Aviation experts are currently investigating the incident but it is believed that the privately-owned balloon, which was manned by two licensed pilots and equipped with a first-aid kit, may have been adversely affected by strong winds.
A world heritage site, the Serengeti attracts around 100,000 tourists annually, mainly from America, Britain, France, Germany and Japan. The balloon rides generally take off at 05.00 near Maasai Kopjes in the northern part of the plains. As in Kenya's Maasai Mara game reserve, the balloons have proved a very popular way for tourists to view the region's plentiful wildlife below, including the Serengeti's two million wildebeest and a quarter of a million zebra.
The balloons float in whichever direction the winds take them, with the pilots controlling the altitude. Serengeti Balloon Safaris have stated that the fatal crash is the first of its kind to occur in its 20-year history.