Best Places in Southern Africa to enjoy a Hot Air Balloon Flight

Hot air balloons float about the vast expanse of the Namib Desert.

Float above spectacular landscapes on a serene flight across a wild corner of Southern Africa.

There is something undeniably romantic about embarking on a hot air balloon flight. It is the most primitive and possibly the purest form of human flight. Highly skilled pilots have to know the wind intimately, as they can only adjust altitude to ride different wind currents. Passengers are completely at the mercy of the local winds and therefore flights depart at the crack of dawn, when the air is the most stable. Waking up in the early hours of the morning and traveling to the launching site can be inconvenient, but the serenity of smoothly drifting through the air as the sun rises is completely worth the hassle. As any photographer knows, the early morning sun creates mesmerizing shadows and the vantage point from a hot air balloon allows for unrivaled natural scenes.

Sossusvlei, Namibia

When traveling in Namibia, a hot air balloon safari over the namib desert is a safari activity not soon forgotten. Hot air ballooning at Sossusvlei is hosted by a highly professional team known as Namib Sky Ballooning, with an immaculate safety record. The oldest desert in the world, the Namib Desert delivers scenery that is probably not too dissimilar from that on Mars, except for the signs of life that can be spotted here and there. As the balloon takes to the air at sunrise, the landscape of endless red sand - interrupted only by rocky mountains and ancient river valleys - provides sights that most photographers and travelers can only dream of. The area is almost completely devoid of plant life except for some incredibly hardy trees that can be seen as dots here and there, most of which have long ago died and only the bare skeletons remain. The scattered wildlife that does occur in the area are only seen rarely, but the trace of their existence are the tracks and pathways that they have left behind. From the air, the desert does seem to have a life of its own, as the ever-changing early morning shadows dance across the landscape. After the flight, a hearty buffet breakfast accompanied by champagne is served back on solid ground to celebrate this once in a lifetime experience.

A hot air balloon safari in Sossusvlei..

Hazyview, South Africa

Balloons Over Africa is a family-run business that provides hot air balloon flights that depart from the Sabie River near Hazyview. The pilot, Kevin, has been the hot air ballooning champion in South Africa for six consecutive years and will keep his passengers safe while providing the best flight humanly possible. There is perhaps no better way to see the bushveld and all it has to offer from the vantage point of a hot air balloon. For vast landscape views, Kevin will take the balloon thousands of feet up into the sky, but prefers to keep the balloon relatively low, enabling guests to observe wildlife going about their daily business, blissfully unaware of the balloon floating above them. The area that the balloon covers is at the will of the morning winds, and limitless scenes await the lucky guests that embark on these flights. Early morning - when the balloon takes off - is also the best time for photography and animal sightings, thus these flights provide a truly unforgettable experience.

Cape Winelands, South Africa

Dirty Boots provides hot air balloon flights in the Berg River Valley of the Cape Winelands. Flights only go out from November to April, as the winter conditions do not allow for hot air ballooning. The picturesque landscape consisting of neat mosaics of vineyards, orchards and grass fields with a backdrop of rugged blue Cape Mountains provides awe-inspiring scenes. On a clear day from the right spot, it is even possible to see Table Mountain in the distance, providing that Simonsberg Mountain is not in the way. Neat old farmsteads litter the area and a whole range of grazing animals, even game species, can be observed while serenely drifting over the landscape.

An aerial view of the lush Okavango Delta.

Okavango Delta, Botswana

AirVentures is the host of Okavango Ballooning Safaris. Wildlife in the area is so abundant that plenty of wildlife sightings are experienced, even on the way to the launching site. When the balloon takes to the air as the sun rises, the landscape transforms into a wonderland of grass fields, tree islands and flood channels, where the mighty Okavango River flows into the Okavango Delta transforming the area to a lush environment in the heart of the desert. The vast array of wildlife that can be seen from a hot air balloon is mind-boggling. Bigger animals, such as elephant, hippopotamus and buffalo are the easiest to spot, but zebra, lechwe and wildebeest are also seen regularly. Predators are not uncommon, and lions and cheetahs are seen occasionally. On a lucky flight, the rare African wild dog can even be observed. The spectacular landscape does often take the show away from the animals, especially if there are just enough clouds to complement the sunrise.

Magaliesberg, Cradle of Humankind & Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve, South Africa

AirVentures offers hot air balloon flights year round in South Africa departing from the Cradle of Humankind, Magaliesberg, or the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve. All of these flights offer something unique. The flight from the Cradle of Humankind ascends over an area that our hominid ancestors occupied in millennia past, surrounded by ancient geological features and local farmlands. The scenery consists of ravines, roads and green and brown patches of farmland. When lifting off from the Magaliesberg area, the rising sun dances across the mountains in the form of ever-changing shadows and illuminated hilltops. The Safari Flight takes flight in the heart of the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve, allowing guests to see some of the Big Five species and plenty of other animals as the hot air balloon floats over the area. With AirVentures, there is a choice of taking an exclusive balloon that caters for a romantic couple or larger groups in passenger balloons.

An early morning balloon safari in the Magaliesberg.

Drakensberg, South Africa

Drakensberg Ballooning offers flights in KwaZulu-Natal with the highest mountain range in South Africa, the Drakensberg Mountains, forming an unforgettable backdrop. Panoramic scenes stretch all the way from the Giant's Castle in the Southern Drakensberg to the Amphitheater in the Northern Drakensberg. The balloons drift over the lush landscape consisting of green farms, large rivers, dams and nature reserves. This hot air balloon flight can provide a multitude of different scenes, as it covers some of the wettest regions in South Africa, from waterfalls to wildlife and everything in between. After the flight, passengers all receive champagne to commemorate the experience and a quick lift to a breakfast venue.

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