Hot Air Ballooning makes for a perfect milestone birthday gift. We chose to book a hot air balloon experience for our family to enjoy in celebration of my mother’s 60th birthday. The hot air balloon experience is spectacular in every way. It was exciting to wake early and drive through to meet the operators in Paarl around 05h00. From there we drove to the launch site which felt like quite a drive. When we arrived at the hot air balloon launch site, it was nothing more than a large empty field. We leapt out the car and started helping the operators unpack their vehicles and watch as they assembled the basket, burners and hot air balloon. Some of us chose to sip champagne or drink coffee and just chatter, others got more involved in opening and perfectly positioning the balloon ready for inflation and lift off!
Hot air ballooning is a spectacular experience and fairly costly. This is why the experience is perfect for special anniversary gifts or milestone birthdays. Hot air ballooning is not an adrenaline activity. There is something adventurous about the overall experience but the experience itself is very relaxed and suitable for anyone who is able to stand in the hot air balloon basket for the duration of the flight.
Once the hot air balloon was inflated and standing beautifully proud, we all climbed into the basket and listened as the pilot gave us instructions on how he would be executing the flight along with the safety procedures we needed to familiarise ourselves with. From there we floated gracefully upwards and caught the necessary winds to move the balloon in the direction as steered by the pilot. Hot air ballooning is extremely weather dependent. The hot air balloon flights will not take place if the winds aren’t ideal for a perfect flight. Ballooning can be very dangerous if not executed by professionals and the hot air balloon operators should be licensed and affiliated with CAA (Civil Aviation Authority). Although the hot air balloon flight is more cost effective for tourists it is still a possibility for local tourists as well (even if we have to save).
Once we were in the air and gliding over the landscape below, all of us relaxed and spent time in different areas of the basket looking at the circumference of spectacular views around us. We were able to see Table Mountain, the winelands, farmlands, mountain ranges and more. The aerial views where breathtaking and momentous. We took many photographs and video footage of the experience which will be cherished for a lifetime. What struck me most was how quiet it was; if we all stopped talking, one could hear nothing but total utter silence apart from the burners that occasionally blast the necessary gases upwards to keep the hot air balloon afloat.
Our landing was just as graceful as the takeoff. Nothing but a gentle touch down and more pleasurable than a normal commercial flight (along with the queues as you wait to disembark). We climbed out of the hot air balloon basket and assisted my parents who barely needed help. We then made our way towards the van and enjoyed some champagne to toast our spectacular hot air balloon experience. Once the hot air balloon flight was disassembled and packed away we went to the Grande Roché in Paarl where we enjoyed a sumptuous champagne breakfast.
Our family experience of the hot air balloon flight was memorable and perfectly suited for the celebration of a milestone 60th birthday. Although we enjoyed this experience in 2007 and today it is 2011, my mother continues to reflect on how much impact this special gift experience made in providing a unique idea and special gift for a 60th birthday that she wanted to remember for years to come.
Written and prepared for by Odette Butcher, Chief Experience Officer
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