This year I was celebrating my birthday in South Africa of all places!! I was determined to make it a birthday to remember, and so myself and my friend Gemma (who had flown all the way out from the UK to see me) booked a hot air balloon ride for that morning!!

We were so excited; it was forecast to be a sunny but misty morning, and at 4am we drove to Suncatchers lodge to meet our pilot, Wynand! As we arrived, we saw a huge colourful balloon being inflated, and we enjoyed a cup of coffee and rusks as they went through the safety checks.

At sunrise we were just climbing aboard the hot air balloon; into a padded, comfortable basket that reached just past my waist. It was surprisingly sturdy, and the pilot went through a safety-briefing and landing instructions before turning on the burner and filling the balloon with gas!

It was amazing!! We lifted into the air so gently we didn’t seem to move!! I felt completely weightless, and as I looked around, clouds and mist were falling beneath us as we glided above trees and fruit groves, and towards the Drakensburg Mountains!

The sunrise from the hot air balloon has to be one of the most spectacular I have ever seen; as we lifted above the clouds, we saw the sun rising above the mountains. At that moment I felt we were the only people on earth experiencing that exact moment. The clouds beneath us, the mountains around us, and the sun rising in the distance was absolutely magical.

As we passed the mountains, we then descended to pass over the bushveld, we saw impala, duiker, zebra, baboons and giraffe, which are surprisingly easy to spot from above!

As the end of our flight came, Wynand gave us one last show. As we headed towards the landing site, we did a quick descent into a grapefruit grove, and leant out of the basket to pick a ripe fruit from the tree! It was brilliant seeing the victory look on Gemma’s face! To top it off, when we had landed we had a champagne breakfast to toast a safe flight.

Everything was amazing, and a birthday to remember for years to come, as we were due to go to Kruger National Park for the day!


Written by Anna Mussi (England)