Photo Essay: Hot Air Ballooning Over South Africa

I starkly remember the first time I ever saw (and heard) a hot air balloon. I was playing basketball in my backyard when I heard a "whooshing" overhead. I looked up as a hot air balloon appeared from over the woods behind our house and continued overhead. Minutes later it landed in one of our neighbors' backyard. Ever since I've had a preoccupation with air travel, not the least of which has been hot air ballooning. However, as much air travel as I've done, via helicopter, airplane, and airship, I had yet to travel by hot air balloon. It was in part, because if I was going to do it, I wanted to do it right. And what I always envisioned was not just a hot air balloon ride, but a hot air balloon ride in Africa...over the African bush...while making out (shooting for the stars here). However, when you get invited to go hot air ballooning over South Africa, you do it.

So when I revisited South Africa a few weeks ago I didn't give it a second thought to go up in my first hot air balloon at Bill Harrop's Original Balloon Safaris just outside of Johannesburg, South Africa. As it turned out, the 4 a.m. wake-up call was more than worth it, providing one of my favorite experiences to date. Bonus: Mimosas in a field of antelopes upon landing, followed by a full South African breakfast. As a courtesy, however, I didn't attempt to kiss any of my fellow passengers. See it all in photos below.

Last photo by photographer Gareth Pon.