I’ve dreamt of taking a flight in a hot air balloon ever since I first caught glimpse of them soaring high above Melbourne as a young girl. So when the day finally came for my turn with Global Ballooning I was beyond excited.
My fellow sky explorers and I all gathered at Balgownie Estate in the glorious Yarra Valley around 6am where the team was waiting for us. It was a pleasant drive in the darkness of early morning as the roads were quiet and the unusually large full moon was setting in the distance. After a quick briefing, we were allocated our pilots and then found a seat in our assigned minibus. We drove amongst a convoy of four-wheeled drives towing trailers carrying the baskets and excited passenger-filled minibusses. After stopping on the side of the road and waiting for the pilots to have the final all-clear from the Bureau of Meteorology we reached our take-off point. The priority of safety was comforting for the slightly more uneasy passengers.
We were told that the takeoff point changes every day according to the wind direction, strength, and landing destination of the flight. Hot Air Balloons fly with the wind, so specifying a permanent takeoff point is not possible for the operators. The crew and pilots were enthusiastic and informative guides who explained all about how the balloons worked and a little backstory about the pilots which really personalized the experience. We had three different sized balloons referenced as Goldilocks and the 3 bears by the team as there were small, medium, and large balloons all to be flown together.
After reaching the paddock everyone who wanted to was encouraged to get involved in the setup and commenced arranging the equipment. We observed how effortlessly staff were unrolling the balloon and attaching it to the basket, our home for this sensational trip. The crew started filling the balloons with cool air by running two high-powered fans. After enough cool air was inside for the balloon to start taking shape, cool air turned to hot with the use of burners. The basket was lifted upright until it could’ve taken off if it hadn’t been tied down. Everything was ready to go so we climbed into the basket one by one. I was last to get in which was rewarded with a 180-degree corner view. The balloons were so much larger than I anticipated; I realized I had never seen one up close before.
We began to rise so quietly and slowly that I hadn’t even noticed we’d left the ground. We lifted into the air just as the soft golden glow of first light was appearing on the hills for unforgettable morning views of the valley. Watching the dew glisten on the grass and horses stir was magical. I was in constant awe of the gliding weightless feeling it gave. It was soothingly tranquil except for the rare roar of the jets. After floating low over the treetops we ascended with a few bursts of hot air hundreds of meters above the ground to see the sun appearing over the peaks in the distance.
It warmed our faces and lit up the ground below us, casting long shadows from the trees and animals on the land. The sun began shedding its rays through the bright layers of the clouds. In the distance, a companion balloon floated through the clouds until it gracefully disappeared in the white haze. There was a sense of security to see other hot air balloons in the skies of Melbourne.
Seeing the Yarra Valley from the sky is priceless and incomparable. It’s so different from a plane or helicopter. It was so smooth, that it felt as if we were barely moving. The ride is relaxing so you have time to take everything in. I enjoyed floating on a calm breeze high above the wineries, just gazing at the city of Melbourne on the horizon in the distance. The scenes from the top were mesmerizing, seeing the kangaroos hopping around the farmland while flying over the treetops was a delight to watch.
I couldn’t have truly known the charms of hot air ballooning had I not traveled myself. You won’t feel cold up in the air as there is no wind chill. The hot air balloon flies with the wind so no cool air is crossing you during the flight. The coolest you’ll feel is on the ground before takeoff. It’s recommended you bring a hat to protect your head from the warm temperatures of the burners’ flames.
We were in the serene skies for an hour before it was time for us to land back on earth to finish our flight. The ground crew was waiting for us at the landing point. The touchdown was surprisingly smooth, just a small bump as we met the ground. We were lucky enough to be the first down so we could admire the others elegantly set down a short distance from us. As the crew and travelers packed up the balloon together the scenes of the sky were still running through my head but the Global Ballooning experience wasn’t over yet.
We took the short journey back to Balgownie Estate where an incredible buffet breakfast was waiting for us. We had all built up quite the appetite which was more than satisfied with the generous spread on offer. Sharing stories with fellow passengers, the pilots, and the crew over coffee was a pleasant way to finish the morning. And of course, we all celebrated a successful flight with a glass of bubbles.
Even though the temperatures are beginning to get cooler in autumn, it is rumored this is the best time of year to book a flight. The powerful burners can get quite warm in summer, and there are generally more wet days in winter and spring. Taking an autumn flight and watching the trees turning color from above is a must-do experience to add to your memories. Visitors traveling to Melbourne should not miss a chance to see the city and Yarra Valley from a bird’s eye view. Seeing Greater Outer Melbourne from above at dawn was an amazing experience.
The crew was so friendly and supportive that it made the whole activity easy and relaxing. Global Ballooning adds to the charms of hot air ballooning by assisting its customers in the best possible way. Over the years, hot air balloons have become such an iconic sight over Melbourne. It will really be an expensive loss of opportunity for those who miss out on participating in this activity.
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I was provided with this tour in return for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this article are my own and not influenced by the company.
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