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For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni
For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni 

Things to do in Namibia

Hot air balloon highs in the Namib Desert

The best thing about it is that you never know for sure where you’re going to end up…

By Denis Heseman
Senior Account Manager for Namib Sky

You must have seen the movie, Out of Africa? Well, when my father did, he was adamant that this was the only way to really experience the savannah – soaring in the air. And sure enough, he went to Belgium, got his license and bought himself a second-hand balloon to bring back to the DRC Congo where we were living at the time. Then the war started so it never really took off…quite literally.

We left Congo escaping to Rwanda and then later to Burundi. When the civil war started in Burundi, we ran out of places to go until someone told us about Nambia, this brand-new country which had just become independent. When we arrived here – the Sossusvlei region, the big open landscape, my parents were blown away. This was the perfect place to do balloon safaris.

By luck, my parents met legendary German Namibian, Albi Bruckner, who founded the NamibRand Nature Reserve. Albi provided my parents a base from which to fly their balloons. We waited it out for four years running a six-bed lodge under 10% occupancy until the Sossusvlei inevitably became famous and the tourists trickled in. The best thing about being a child in this area is the freedom. With no televisions or game boys, my brother and I would just take this old Hilux out into the desert and go off exploring the mountains completely on our own. We had two rules – take a radio and be back before sunset.

On a typical hot air balloon ride, you get to feel this amazing sense of isolation. We take a 10-minute drive to the launch pad. Then you can enjoy the spectacle of the balloon inflating and taking shape – a very magical event just before sunrise. After a briefing with your pilots, you take to the air. It’s an hour in the sky travelling wherever the wind takes us over oceans of sand and dramatic mountains. We typically cover an average of 10 kilometres although some days as much as 30 kilometres depending on the strength of the wind. Meanwhile the crew sets up a beautiful champagne breakfast for when you land: I’m talking homemade breads (including gluten free), cheeses, smoked fish, salami from our neighbours, pancakes, cereals and yogurts.

Every flight is different, but the most memorable one I had was with my wife when we saw a leopard below us chasing the balloon. We were perfectly safe, but she was leaping up into the sky trying to catch us probably because she had a cub nearby. It was a surreal experience.


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Alfred & Denis Heseman

Denis grew up in the Namib Desert surrounded by balloons and what he considered to be the largest sand pit ever. With over two thousand flights under his belt, ballooning is second nature to him. When he’s not in the air, you’ll find him in the desert exploring pre-historical sites or catching snakes with his brother. He lives with his wife, Andreia, the Managing Director forming the second generation of Namib Sky.

Plan your holiday withAlfred&

Contact us and one of our UK team will help shape your ideas into the trip of a lifetime. Someone like Malcolm who's travelled extensively in Namibia. But they won't do it alone. They'll draw on the expertise of our contacts on the ground, connecting you to the people who'll make your holiday one you'll always remember - the expert guides who can help you spot rare animals or the fat bike enthusiasts who can take you on a cycling adventure through the Namib Desert. Give us a call, set up and appointment or enquire online to start planning your tailor-made Namibia holiday.

Freephone an expert 01306 744 656

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