They say travel far enough and you’ll meet yourself, and we couldn’t agree more. Travel is the ultimate inspiration, education, relaxation, rejuvenation and pure soul food. Not only that, but it’s highly addictive and its rewards are immeasurable.
To find yourself in the midst of the untouched wilderness, where wildlife has roamed freely since the dawn of time, is both life-changing and awe-inspiring. It forces you to feel present; to breathe; to observe. It makes you forget about the trivial things in life, like chores and groceries and the six o’clock news. And most importantly, it reawakens the love affair we all once had with the natural world when we were children.
Our precious planet is an extraordinary place and its most breathtaking and jaw-dropping landscapes are just waiting to be explored, admired, photographed and cherished for future generations to enjoy.
Just think of all the ways we discover and appreciate the vast beauty of the rugged landscapes that surround us: in open vehicles; on foot; by boat; by scuba; on horseback; by bicycle; and from behind a camera lens to name a few.
The options are endless, but perhaps one of the most memorable, and truly romantic, ways of experiencing the earth’s magnificence is from the peaceful and scenic vantage point of a hot air balloon. It is a treat for the senses: to see the world from a bird’s eye view; smell the fresh air; feel the wind in your hair; touch the warm pockets of air created by the gusts of flame overhead; and taste the champagne victory upon landing (a longstanding tradition among balloon pilots). This is sensory overload at its best.
Awake before dawn and set out in the early morning moonlight to the designated launch site and watch excitedly as the balloon is brought to life. Giant, hot bursts of flame slowly inflate the brightly coloured nylon and soon it’s time to clamber into the basket, which rests on its side. Once everyone is in, seatbelts fastened (just for take-off and landing) and hands firmly on the sidebar, the balloon gently lifts and begins its peaceful ascent.
As you float amongst the clouds, the sun rises dramatically over the horizon and the magnificent colours of the earth are ever-changing. Watch mighty herds of elephant that resemble ants marching, marvel at sand dunes that seemingly never end, spot towers of giraffe grazing the treeline, gaze down at lush vineyards, see rafts of hippo lazing about in the river and, if the timing is right, witness the enormous herds of the Great Migration as they amble on their never-ending trek in search of greener pastures.
The balloon soars at varying heights and gradually rotates with the morning breeze, constantly giving passengers a new perspective. Many animals will gaze up in at the giant ball and basket with surprise and great curiosity.
The seasoned pilot will eventually select the perfect landing spot, and with a few minor bumps here and there, the balloon will land just in time for a grand celebratory champagne breakfast where you can recount the morning’s bucket list moment.
Here are our top picks for the 5 best places for a balloon safari of the senses.
1. Atacama Desert, Chile, South America
Image © Balloons Over Atacama.
2. Colchagua, Chile, South America
Image © maccfotografia.
3. Namib Desert, Namibia, Africa
Images © Caleb Shepard Photography.
4. Masai Mara, Kenya, Africa
Images © Grant Telfer.