Thursday July 23, 2009 – Second day in Sossusvlei in the Namib Desert of Namibia. Dwight and I went on a hot air balloon flight over the desert today. It was originally scheduled for tomorrow, but we were told it had to be moved up because they were expecting rain. In the desert. During the dry season.
Turns out what they were actually expecting was high winds, with a chance of sandstorm. So our balloon excursion guides met us at the gate of the Sossus Dune Lodge just before 6am this morning and drove us for about half an hour into the desert to a huge empty plain where they had two hot air balloons inflated and waiting. The baskets that we stood in under the billowing canvas were fairly large, and there were 10 or 12 of us in each balloon including the pilot. It didn’t feel crowded though, and we still had an unobstructed view and nobody getting in the way of our photos. We took off just before the sun came up over the mountains and our balloons drifted aimlessly over the plains and desert for about an hour. At least, it seemed aimless to me: floating along on the breeze, it seemed we literally traveled wherever the wind took us. The views were amazing. We wafted over the rocky hills which eventually gave way to brown sand dunes and finally the tall red dunes seen in all the guidebooks. Below us we could see tiny springbok jumping and kicking, and tiny ostriches racing each other in the distance. It was an incredible experience and if you ever find yourself in a desert you should definitely try it yourself.
After about an hour we landed, which was fun. The pilot expertly and carefully deflated the balloon in a semi-controlled manner, which brought the basket touching down – and after it touched down, the balloon continued to pull us as it emptied and billowed out behind. We all had to crouch down in the basket and hold onto the rope handles as we were dragged roughly along the ground. We finally tipped over on our sides and ground to a stop. We were a little dusty perhaps but no worse for the wear. The balloon operators then took us to an area of tables set up in the huge empty plain between the dunes and mountains, where we had a breakfast of champagne and cold meats and cheeses as the sun finished breaking over the horizon. I guess we hadn’t been drifting aimlessly in the sky after all, as we had only a short walk. Dwight and I ate some zebra meat, before we’ve seen one in the wild. I have to say it was not very good; some things just shouldn’t be on the menu. After that we came back to the lodge and rested up for our next adventure.
Want to do this yourself?
We booked our two-week Namibia safari adventure through Natural World Safaris, a specialist in wildlife safaris around the world. Will Bolsover tailor-made our trip based on our time constraints, budget, and our particular interests. I typically book most trips myself, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and it really needs to be done right. They took care of every detail from flights to bonus excursions. I highly recommend checking out their website; in addition to private tailor-made holidays they also offer small group tours to phenomenal destinations.
See what they offer in Namibia here.