Facts about Hot- Air Ballooning in SA
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If you like defying the laws of nature but are reluctant to take too many chances, hot air ballooning could be just the thing you’re looking for. It might also easily be one of the best ways to experience the many diverse and magnificent landscapes of this wonderful country.
With wind in your hair and the ground far below, you'll get the perspective of the environment and often enjoy numerous sightings of wild animals. Peaceful and serene, the experience is unanimously described as magical. Hot air ballooning can be enjoyed by pretty much anybody as there are no special physical requirements; one only needs to be able to climb in and out of the basket, and stand for up to an hour. If you can do that, you'll be rewarded by spectacular 360 degree views and sights not likely to be forgotten- ever.
The Old World Magic
Hot air ballooning is one of the oldest forms of flight technology known to humankind. Heated by a propane burner, hot air balloons operate on the principle of hot air rising. While the pilot can influence up and down movements by pumping in hot air (to make the balloon climb) and releasing the air through an opening near the top (to get it to drop), mother nature and its winds decide in which direction you’ll be moving. As you’re slowly gaining altitude, every second will offer a different view of the expanding landscape below. An hour in the air will likely feel as mere minutes before your trip ends with a smooth and seamless landing.
Did you know that the very first passengers to fly a balloon were not actually human? A crew consisting of a sheep, a duck and a rooster were the first living beings to experience this unique form of travelling back in 1783. Having flown for only eight minutes over 3 km, their craft safely landed with all the animals unharmed. Since the experiment proved successful, brothers Montgolfier boarded a hot air balloon next, launching it from Paris and flying for about 20 minutes.
In South Africa, hydrogen gas balloons were originally used by the military during the Boer War. Their purpose was not to transport people from point A to point be, but rather to keep an eye on enemy camps and movements. In 1972 a balloon section was formed by the South African Aero Club, and four years later the first international balloon race took place, starting in Johannesburg and ending in Durban. In 1999, the first balloon ride to circumnavigate the globe covered more than 42,000 kilometres, and in 2005 an Indian adventurer managed to achieve the highest ever altitude of over 21,000 meters.
Where are some good opportunities to go Hot Air Ballooning in South Africa?
South Africa offers multiple opportunities for floating along with the wind. Trips normally begin early in the morning which means you can expect to experience glorious sunrises. Thanks to good weather conditions throughout the year, in Mpumalanga hot air balloon rides can be done pretty much anytime, unlike in KwaZulu Natal where high winds ground the balloons between June and October. One can go for a hot air balloon trip in Magaliesberg near Johannesburg, soak in the view of the Cradle of Humankind and game reserves, float above the picturesque Cape Winelands or the spectacular Pilanesberg National Park near Sun City, enjoy hot air balloon safaris while flying over the Lowveld Bushveld close to Kruger Park, and sweep silently over the plains of the Klein Karoo in Oudtshoorn in the Eastern Cape. In the Mpumalanga Lowveld, you’ll be sailing above the northern Drakensberg, the Sabie River and sub-tropical fruit orchards, while red dunes contrasted against the blue sky of the Kalahari desert offer a unique and exquisite sight in the Northern Cape.
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