Florida Guide > Other Activities
Hot Air Ballooning in Florida
As a birthday treat, my husband had booked a trip in a hot air balloon for me and my youngest son (one child goes free). As Stuart (hubby) and Jamie (eldest son) were afraid of heights, it was left to us two to try this.
We booked in for the first Sunday in Florida, as my body clock would still be on UK time, having arrived on the Friday and getting up early (the meet at the hotel was 6. 00 am) would not be a problem.
We were dropped off at a local hotel for the drive to the launching spot in Poinciana and 44 very tired-looking people set off in two mini-coaches. We arrived at the launch site just as the sun was rising, and it was a real treat to watch the balloons being inflated as the sky brightened to daylight. My son was a little apprehensive about the trip as his initial bravado as a 9 year old, started to wear off. However, he was entrusted with the camcorder and busily filmed the inflation of the balloons and the colourful sunrise, which took his mind off the actual flight.
We were not sure what to expect when we booked the flight back in the UK, assuming that we would be going up in individual baskets of not more than 6 to 8 people. We were very wrong! The company we had booked with had just acquired new baskets/balloons, which held a maximum of 24 people in 5 compartments of one basket. The balloon we were to be travelling in had 22 people on board – 20 spread over 4 compartments and two people flying the balloon in the 5th. We had obviously chosen a popular day to fly! Initially it was a little claustrophobic in the basket (there were three adults and three children in our section) but amazingly we all had a good view out of the basket. We all looked at each other when we were gearing up to lifting off, thinking there was NO WAY we would get off the ground with our combined weight in the balloon, but amazingly, we easily left the ground and quickly gained height.
The heat from the burners was a bit of a shock to start with, but once we had risen to tree height, the outside breeze cooled everything down and the heat was not so noticeable, as the balloon only needed a short burst from the burners to raise the height a little.
The view is totally amazing – Josh and I loved the panoramic views as we drifted along, there is no actual feeling of moving and (apart from the occasional noise of the burners) it is eerily quiet. The guys flying the balloon cracked jokes and explained the workings of the balloon, and they put everyone at ease and the time passed too quickly.
We passed over wooded area, where we spotted a couple of deer, tiny from our vantage point, but still distinguishable. Then on to habitation, over a golf course, then passing over Reunion with it’s own water park – looking very inviting and the Omni Hotel in the distance. We headed for the area past Highway 27, but we started to drift left from where we planned to land. The guys tried to correct the drift, but the wind decided our final landing place for them. They radioed ahead for the pickup bus to meet in a different place and then advised us passengers on how to brace ourselves for the impact of landing.
We were now losing height quite quickly and the dots in the distance now became houses and cars and Highway 27 loomed in front of us. We flew over the rooftops of the community and we were close enough to wave to people on their pool decks, in their cars etc and they shouted to us and waved back. We skimmed the roofs of the final houses in front of the field where we were going to be landing, held on tight and waited for touchdown. We had been told that the basket takes off again once it touches down and to expect two or three ‘bounces’ before we finally landed, and this was exactly what happened. It was a bumpy landing but we all made it in one piece and this part of the adventure was complete.
Once we had all climbed out of the basket, a lot of us helped get the air out of the balloon so that it could be rolled up and stowed away. This was great fun, as the kids were encouraged to roll along the silk to force the air out of the balloon, which they loved to do, and the adults held on for dear life to the edges of the silk to keep it down.
The mini-bus arrived, and we toasted our flight with champagne and soda for the kids, then bundled in the mini-bus for the drive back to the hotel for breakfast, which was also included.
After breakfast we were presented with a certificate and a photo of the balloon as a memento of our trip.
We both agreed that it was a wonderful experience and we were glad that we had the opportunity to take the trip. If there is a next time, though, we will make sure that there are not so many of us in one balloon! I believe the balloon that can be booked through OV is a smaller type to the one we booked, so I think we will book through OV next time.
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