[Update With Video] Silent splendor: Hot air ballooning on Jeju Island!

Click on any of the photos in this post for detailed views.

Aerial views of Jeju Island. Admittedly they’re spectacular, and every day more are posted online. This is thanks in part of the rise in camera-carrying drones… but they’re noisy and well, it’s not the real thing.

Hallasan Mountain is far in the distance, but still clearly visible as the conditions this morning were calm and clear.

So how about going hot air ballooning? See Jeju for yourself from high up above?

Now, Jeju visitors have that opportunity, as a new service for non-tethered ballooning (the only one in Korea!) is on offer in the southeast of the island at Songdang-ri.

The company is appropriately named Oreum Balloons because Songdang-ri is particularly good for its panoramic views of dozens of tree-covered oreum (volcanic cones). There are also plenty of flat, uninhabited areas to land in.

And what an experience! The hour-long trip is remarkable by any measure.

First off, the silence. Of course the weather has to be perfect (or near perfect) before the experienced pilot, Mr. Kim Jong-guk, will give the go-ahead for a flight. So once you’re up there — at an altitude of about 150 meters — it is really quiet.

Even when we dipped down to see the wildlife and landscapes up close, which included an exciting brush with the tops of the trees, it’s amazing how unobtrusive we were floating across the countryside.

We saw horses, cows, deer and other wildlife going about their morning none the wiser that we were there (until the pilot activated the roaring, upward-turned fiery engine in short bursts).

Pre-flight preparation

Pilot Kim Jong-guk has many years of experience in Korea and overseas.

It should be noted that a hot air balloon tour isn’t for everyone. Visitors with tight schedules cannot be guaranteed a flight, even if they have a reservation. Again, it’s up to the pilot to judge the weather on the day, and conditions can change minute-to-minute, so it’s not an ideal activity for some.

Landings can be rough as well. You really have to be able to hang-on tightly in case of bounces or if the basket turns on its side as the massive balloon above deflates.

And finally there’s the price. Just a dozen or so people can ride at a time, and with few perfect days for flights, this drives up the cost. It’s 396,000 won per person for an hour-long journey. This is on par with ballooning services in other countries, though.

And the landing

Did you know?

After the flight there’s a small sit-down champagne gathering with Mr. Kim. It’s a nice way to recap the experience and ask any questions you might have about the flight or what you saw from the air. Mr. Kim speaks English well and explains the safety briefing in English, too.

All in all, a one-of-a-kind experience!


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