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HHot-air balloon rides offer a safe adventure – commercial hot-air ballooning in South Africa is controlled by the Civil Aviation Authority, and each operator must be registered as a non-scheduled airline, have a valid pilot’s licence, operating certificate and public liability insurance, and is held to regular airworthiness checks.
As a passenger, you need to be fit enough to stand for the duration of the flight (at least 50 minutes), climb in and out of the basket, and be at least 1.2m (4 ft) tall so you can see over the rim. Air temperature and stability dictate that almost all balloon flights start before sunrise, and the flight path of every excursion depends on the direction of the wind and the weather.
In Free State province, take a flight over the Vredefort Dome World Heritage Site, or over Clarens, with views of the Maluti Mountains. In Northern Cape, red sand dunes and the blue vault of the Kalahari Desert sky offer a rare and exquisite sight.
In Mpumalanga province, in the lush, subtropical Lowveld, drift over the foothills of the northern Drakensberg, banana orchards and macadamia plantations, and the Sabie River. In Limpopo, go game spotting over private game reserves adjoining Kruger National Park. In Pilanesberg National Park in North West province, you can also spot game from the air, near the impressive Sun City Resort.
In Oudtshoorn in Eastern Cape, sweep silently above the plains of the Little Karoo, with the majestic Swartberg and Outeniqua mountain ranges for company. In Western Cape, ballooning over vineyards and wheat fields before breakfast at Paarl’s 5-star Grande Roche Hotel is a quintessential winelands adventure.
Gauteng has several popular ballooning sites, including the Magaliesberg Mountains, the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site and Cullinan’s secret valleys north of Pretoria.
TTravel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Hot Air Ballooning South Africa
Tel: +27 (0)11 802 4318
Bill Harrop’s Original Balloon Safaris, Limpopo
Tel: +27 (0)11 705 3201
Cell: +27 (0)83 443 2661/2/3
AirVentures Hot Air Ballooning, Gauteng
Tel: +27 (0)83 356 2435
Mankwe Gametrackers, Pilanesberg
Tel: +27 (0)14 552 5020
Wineland Ballooning, Western Cape
Tel: +27 (0)21 863 3192
Airtrackers Hot Air Balloon Safaris (Pilanesberg/Sun City)
Tel: +27 (0)14 552 5020
Air to Air Africa (Cradle of Humankind)
Tel: +27 (0)84 602 3491
Best time to visit
Hot-air ballooning is a seasonal activity, depending on climate and short-term weather. In Western Cape, for example, wet, windy winters mean the ballooning outfits only operate from November to April; further east the winters are better for dry, stable air, so you may not find operators open during the stormy height of summer. Even in season, bad weather on any particular day can rule out ballooning, so phone ahead, even once you’ve booked, to check that your ride is still going ahead on the day.
Length of stay
Flights usually last about an hour, but allow 3 to 4 hours for the entire excursion.
What to pack
A camera, or video camera, binoculars, warm clothing, sunscreen and a hat.
What to eat
Many operators include a champagne breakfast in the flight price.