Florida Guide > Other Activities
A Hot Air Balloon Adventure
Often the best way to see an area is from the air, a hot air balloon provides the ideal way to do this. Unlike a light aircraft or helicopter a balloon flies relatively slowly and not far above the ground. This provides an ideal viewing platform from which to view the area.
It is worth booking your balloon adventure for early in your holiday as the activity is very weather dependant. If the weather is not favourable for your first date you will then have the opportunity to try again. There is a link to an excellent compny at the top of the forum, if after reading this you decide to try this unforgettable experience. You can even get married in a balloon. The services of an appropriate official can be arranged who will conduct the ceremony as you are lifted “up, up and away”!
Ballooning is an early morning activity; you will need to arrive at the launch site at or before dawn. Even in Florida it can be chilly first thing in the morning at any time of year, so you will need to be dressed appropriately. It is also advisable for everyone to wear trousers, both getting into and out of the balloon can be somewhat graceless. Sandals are also unsuitable, trainers or something similar will give you much better protection.
The launch site will be weather or more precisely wind dependant. One popular launch site is in a large field next to the Comfort Suites, Main-gate East by Kissimmee Old Town. When you arrive at the launch site, you will be introduced to your pilot who will appreciate some assistance in laying out the balloon and setting up the basket. Once the balloon is assembled which takes about half an hour, inflation will commence. Air is encouraged to fill the balloon by a large petrol driven fan, as it starts to inflate the burners are fired to add hot air. Gradually the balloon will fill and slowly lift off the ground into a vertical position. You will be required to hang onto the basket to prevent an unplanned takeoff. As soon as your pilot is happy he will get you to join him in the basket, a quick burn and the balloon will start to rise gently into the air.
Now relax you have done the hard bit, well at least until its time to land. You will probably find that several balloons are taking off at the same time, it’s a spectacular sight and a definite photo opportunity. There are many more to come and a video will capture far more of the experience than a still camera. Movement over the ground is slow giving you the chance to look at things in detail. Your pilot will point out things of interest. The area is nowhere near as built up as you would expect, the scenery is quite breathtaking and there is an incredible amount of wildlife around. The only scary bit is when the burners are operated as they are quite loud. You are not at the mercy of the winds as much as you may think. By changing altitude the pilot has a surprising amount of control regarding where you fly. Your pilot may even bring the balloon down to skilfully skim across the surface of a lake.
Your flight will last about 30 minutes and is largely governed by the amount of gas that is carried. Towards the end of the flight the pilot will select a landing site. We landed on a track in an orange grove and the smell of the blossom was amazing. The balloon will gradually descend, the basket land gently and as the balloon deflates the basket will tip over, it all happens slowly and in a very controlled manner.
The chase crew will hopefully be waiting for you, help is always appreciated to pack the balloon and load the basket into the waiting vehicles. Then it’s off to enjoy your Champagne breakfast and be presented with your flight certificate.
This adventure is unusual in that there is great excitement coupled with a sense of serenity and surrealism. Definitely worth getting up early for as it’s a memory that will stay with you for some considerable time.
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Page added on: 9 January 2008
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