One of the greatest joys of air travel is the ability to view the world from a new perspective. Things that seem so overwhelmingly large shrink to a miniature size when seen from above. Air travel also enables travel across remote landscapes that are usually difficult to navigate, with animals that would normally hide from humans on land barely noticing your presence. Embrace the bird’s eye view from some of the most inspiring places on earth.
1. The Namib Desert’s hot air balloon ride
Namibia hosts the oldest desert in the world—the Namib, which geologists believe is roughly 55 million years old. It remains at the mercy of the wind, with sand dunes and fields changing with the weather. While walking through this desert sounds like more than a chore, a balloon-ride provides a glorious alternative. This type of travel works in a similar fashion to sailboats—just as the desert moves with the wind, so does the balloon. Instead of working against nature, you become part of it. Barely any wildlife thrives here, so joining in with an oryx (antelope) run in the middle of the vast land is nothing short of magical.
2. The Milton Keynes zorb
This mode of air transportation seems to defy all logic. Travels often hope to lose their bearings in order to view the world differently, which typically just involves stumbling upon an open-air marketplace or receiving an unexpected family dinner invitation from locals. In the case of zorbing, you will have a hard time deciding whether you are in London or floating through space!
Zorbing actually originated in New Zealand, but England has added water to the mix. Zorbing means to travel down a hill while you’re inside a giant ball. While this sounds simple, Milton Keynes (just outside London) offers something called air-sphering that combines the feeling of skydiving with the classic zorbing run. Instead of rolling down a pretty hill inside your cute, clear ball, the Airkix Company decided to put you and your ball inside of a giant structure with winds reaching up to 165 miles per hour!
3. Mauna Kea stargazing
As incredible as the world looks from high altitudes, it’s also worth looking above. The highest point in Hawaii towers so high above sea-level that it has a different atmosphere. Mauna Kea is an inactive volcano with an observatory for astronomers, and stargazing from this particular observatory is so fantastic that ordinances restrict the number of light residents can use near the area (so as not to interfere with the view). Set between the stars and above the summit, the observatory offers the two best views of the earth and sky.
4. The Ocho Rios nighttime zip line
This Jamaican zip line has all of the typical thrills of zip lines around the world, with one incredible difference—it runs at night. Imagine sliding quickly through and above the rainforest’s canopy next to the Mystic Mountain (quite the magical name) while wearing a miner’s helmet. All the sights and sounds of the rainforest are below you while the stars shine above you. On the night zip line, you zoom from station to station, and each of these platforms is lined with torches to guide you along the way.
5. The fantasy of Flight from Polk City
Florida may not sound like the most adventurous or unusual destination. However, the Fantasy of Flight group has created an exciting and unique form of travel. This company collects vintage airplanes and now has the largest collection in the world. Pilots take travelers for rides in D-25s and other restored planes. Even if you are not an airplane aficionado, anyone can thoroughly enjoy the part of the ride when the pilot lets you fly the plane! Each pilot allows for a few minutes of cockpit control. See the modern world from a historical viewpoint in this unique opportunity to embrace the past.