24 years of Namib Sky…
In 1987, we were living in a village in the forests deep in the Congo. At a friend’s home, we saw a video showing balloons flying over the African Savannah. We decided that this was a dream life for us, showing visitors around Africa in the most romantic mode of transportation available – hot air balloon.
Obviously there were some vital elements missing, a balloon license, money, a place to fly, and of course, a balloon.
Two years later, we achieved the first goal: Eric passed his balloon license.
Another year later, we found what we thought to be the right place: the Akagera National Park in Rwanda. We threw a party, invited all our friends, and soon watched, hearts heavy, as civil war broke out around us. Putting our dream on hold, prisoners of Rwanda as the borders were closed and shooting began, we continued teaching and dreaming for another year…
Finally, a three day ceasefire allowed us to pack our children and possessions into our Hilux, and flee to Botswana.
But something was missing in Botswana… We didn’t feel that this was our new home. We then saw a picture of Sossuvlei and the dunes, and we knew, instantly, that it was our future.
On arrival, we realized that our dream was coming true, this was ballooning paradise. But there were no tourists, no hotels, no lodges, just a campsite at Sesriem, a crazy couple at Wolvedans and very friendly farmers, who all thought we were a bit mad!
It took us a few months to convince the authorities (Civil Aviation, Ministries, National Park…) that balloons were harmless to people and wildlife.
We were happy, together as a family in this beautiful place. We were living in a tent, which seemed fine to us until we experienced our first east wind, and then realized that our home was now in a tree some kilometres away.
We approached everybody around and eventually, another man with another dream, Albi Bruckner, allowed us to restore a farm stead in the north of Namib Rand Nature Reserve, and make it our home.
We added 3 en suite tents and “Mwisho” – the first camp in the region was born!
In 1991, our first balloon arrived. The first few guests began trickling in, allowing us to slowly get a feel for ballooning and tourism, but we realized we needed more lodges in order to bring in more tourists.
We then built Kulala Lodge, while living a year under a tree in the riverbed until the river flooded and again, our home ended up some kilometres away from us…
We also started the first part of Le Mirage lodge, adding another lodge to house the tourists we hoped would soon be flocking to our ballooning.
Once we reached “Geluk” (today’s balloon base), things really took-off, and Namib Sky began to finally reach its potential, as did we. Our family grew with Namib Sky to have a great love and respect for the desert that had become our home. After studies, our eldest son Denis joined the company with his lovely wife.
The future is still bright, and we thank everyone for their support over these years.
Eric & Nancy Hesemans
Working together with about 20 people (ground crew & catering team) and four pilots, the family business is run by Eric, his wife Nancy and children Denis and Andreia.
Rob and Ingrid Baas
Rob and Ing are Dutch, their African dream began in remote Zambia, and after seven years in ecotourism they finally made it to Namibia. Rob is a gifted pilot and an adventurist at heart who loves sharing stories, and speaks fluent elephant and hippo. Ing is without doubt his better halve, she is much better looking than him, and is a perfectionist at any task. You will surely meet her on the phone, or find her at our breakfast making sure the pilots behave.
Nancy et Eric Hesemans
Eric was born and bred in DRC. Together with Nancy, they are the founders of Namib Sky. Designated examiner for Namibia, Eric still loves his flying after 24 years in the Namib Desert. He shouts a lot, but nobody takes him seriously as he is the clown of the company! Nancy makes sure the whole operation runs smoothly.
Hermanus Nel Manie has been flying in several countries, for 12 years, and is by far the best pilot in the world if you ask his mother. Previously in the I.T sector, he accomplished his aeronaut training in South Africa, and loves to share his passion for aviation, and nature! His positivity is contagious so you can be sure to have a good time with him!
Denis et Andreia Hesemans Denis grew up in the Namib Desert, surrounded by balloons in a big sand pit! With close to a thousand flights, he is also the safety officer for Namib Sky. Ballooning is a second nature to him and when not in the air, you will find him in the Namib Desert looking for San pre-historical sites or catching snakes with his brother! His wife Andreia is our Quality Assurance Manager and the new ruler of the Company, nothing escapes her and nothing is good enough!
Namib Sky balloon Safaris recently created the “Namib Sky Community Foundation”. With the opening of “Little Bugs” the first Early Childhood Development centre in our region, we are providing hope and opportunities through the introduction of comprehensive education for disadvantaged children of preschool age.
Our mission is to introduce a safe, healthy, stimulating child-friendly environment for quality Early Childhood Education in the local community of Sossusvlei, accessible for all, in cooperation with the Ministry of Gender and Child Welfare and donors.
For more information, click here: www.littlebugs.org
Established in 1991, Namib Sky Balloon Safaris is the pioneer in ballooning in Namibia.
Holder of a Non Scheduled Air service licence # 29 and an Air Operating Certificate issued by the Directorate of Civil Aviation, Namib Sky complies with all international legal and operational requirements.
Namib Sky Balloon Safaris has been operating over the Namib Desert for the last 22 years, carried over 60 000 passengers without any accident or incident recorded.
Our commitment to Safety:
Namib Sky Balloon Safaris is managed in a way that gives priority to the safety of all employees and passengers when they are ballooning. We are committed to achieve the highest level of safety performance and beat national and international standards.
Our operation is based in the most balloon friendly environment: big open spaces, no power lines, no obstacles.
Namib Sky is one of the very few balloon companies who developed & established a Safety Management System as well as an Emergency Response Plan. Meetings and safety workshops are held on a regular basis.
Namib Sky operates a fleet of balloons manufactured in Europe and our maintenance program adheres to the highest standards set by EASA (European Aviation Safety Authority) and the manufacturing company.
We have reduced the maximum passenger capacity of our balloon by 30% to allow our passengers more space in the basket and to enhance the balloon maneuverability.
The Chief pilot, one the owner of the company is an instructor and the designated examiner for Namibia. Our pilots are all rated as commercial and highly experienced. They are regularly cross-checked in order to keep the standard to the highest level.
Namib Sky Balloon Safaris have established a ground crew course. All balloon operation staff receives induction and on-going training on all aspects of ballooning. They are also holders of First Aid Certificates.
Namib Sky Balloon Safaris operates under very strict weather rules. No take-off if the wind exceeds 8 knots or if the sky is covered. As the owners are pilots themselves, they understand when a balloon needs to be cancelled due to bad weather. Pilots are not under stress like in countries where the operation is only seen as a business.
We pride ourselves on our excellence and we strive to provide a memorable experience in the safest manner.
Namib Sky Balloon Safaris really cares about our environment. We strictly adhere to eco-friendly principles; create greater environment awareness to both visitors and the local community.
Our environmental impact is kept as minimal as possible. The Namib Desert is very sensitive and we make sure while on safari that our team has the most eco-friendly behaviour. All our retrieving vehicles only drive on existing tracks and before returning to the base, we even broom our foot prints…
The balloon base and employees’ accommodation are powered with solar energy and only bio degradable cleaning materials and products are used.
We have our own vegetable garden producing all herbs and fresh produces demanding as little water as possible.
Waste management is a priority to us and everything is sorted and transported to recycling companies in Windhoek.
In addition, the local community benefits socially and economically. Our employees are encouraged and sponsored to follow courses that will improve their living standards.
Recently, Namib Sky Balloon Safaris created a trust to help the community in the Sossusvlei area and founded the “Little Bugs”, the first Early Childhood Development in our region.