I was lucky to be invited by Bill Harrop’s Balloon Safaris for an educational. The launch site is situated approximately an hour’s drive from Johannesburg, on the border of Gauteng and North West province near Hartebeesport Dam. The balloon flies over the Magalies River Valley which boasts some of the best ballooning weather in the world. When I was offered the chance to join other agents and operators on this educational I took it with both hands. Bill Harrop’s Ballooning Safaris is the biggest and most well known ballooning company in South Africa and caters for amongst other things: game viewers, engagement proposals and weddings, corporate as well as team building hot air balloons flights.
Upon arrival at the launch site one is treated to coffee, tea and biscuits while watching the balloons get filled with air. The flight departs just before sunrise so actual departure times will depend on the time of the year. As it was quite a cool morning, the heaters at the pavilion were greatly appreciated and kept us all nice and warm.
Climbing into the basket requires a bit of flexibility plus comfortable shoes and clothing. Fortunately I was dressed warmly as it was quite a chilly morning especially before the sun rose. Once we were all aboard and the captain had briefed us on all the safety instructions, the ropes to our balloon were untied and we were set free in to the sky. It was all so smooth and even for those people that are afraid of heights, the sensation of floating away will, I believe, not affect you at all.
The flight is about an hour long and is filled with listening to the pilot’s interesting stories and taking in the beautiful scenery. We were even lucky enough to spot some game from the air. The pilot manoeuvres the balloon in many different ways – one minute you are only a metre or two from the ground and the next minute you are flying over a hundred metres high. Our pilot was also able to glide perilously close to trees and miss them with the smallest of margins.
The landing can be the most hair raising part of the experience especially if there are gusts of wind. Luckily for us the weather was kind and our landing was very gentle. Once we were back on terra firma we each got served a glass of sparkling wine to celebrate a successful trip. Afterwards we were then transferred to the clubhouse restaurant overlooking the Magalies Mountains for a delectable breakfast. Breakfast was amazing, a full spread that catered for all tastes.
After breakfast we each got awarded with a certificate of bravery that will always serve as a reminder of this wonderful experience that I enjoyed. Maybe my next time ballooning will be at either Mabula or Entabeni Game Reserves where Bill Harrops also offer ballooning safaris. I can only imagine how great it would be to float passed a herd of elephants or giraffe!
The transfer back to Johannesburg felt as though it was shorter but that was probably because my stomach was full and I managed to catch a snooze in the bus. We arrived at The Indaba Hotel in Fourways where we were treated to some more refreshments and an inspection of the hotel and its facilities. The Indaba Hotel is mainly used by Tour Operators that run tour series or AdHoc groups because the hotel has amazing venues and lots of different dining areas to choose from plus of course they have a lot of experience in handling groups of all shapes and sizes. Having said that a couple or family staying at this hotel will not feel isolated either. http://www.indabahotel.co.za/
Author: Nondumiso Makhaye
SW Africa Destination Management.