OK, let’s get the ‘that must have big one big balloon to get you up in the air’ jokes out of your systems right now!! LOL (But it really was a very big one)
This was the one trip I had booked before arriving to Dubai. I couldn’t help thinking of the pictures I could take during a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the deserts of Dubai. Getting picked up at my hotel at 4:00am wasn’t so thrilling but the sunrise waits for no one! Hopefully the wind gods would smile favourably upon me and blow in the directions of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve where we would get a chance to see many wild animals in their local habitat. It was not to be. But we were not to be disappointment as we were treated to many wondrous vistas, some wildlife and an absolutely spectacular sunrise.
After my pickup at the hotel, we drove for about a half hour to arrive at our ‘launch’ area. For those geographically inclined among you, it was just off Al Ain Road, near the Conservation Reserve. (I think I will be taking a tour there during my next trip to Dubai). The two balloons were already laid out on the morning sand and the crew were busy with the inflating ritual.
Our Captain, Piotr Gorny, a big bear of a man, gave us our safety instructions. He had a great sense humour but I don’t think anyone would be brave enough to do anything to get him upset. He made it crystal clear that we were to follow his directions to the letter and all would be well. Turns out he’s ex Polish army and has flown balloons all over Europe and the UAE.
Our ‘orders’ having been given and the disclaimer signed (no, I didn’t read it, I just signed it) we hopped into the basket and we were on our way. I swear I could hear the Fifth Dimension singing ‘Up, Up and Away’.
If you look at the video at the end of this post, you will see me in the back, right quadrant of the basket. I’m usually looking through my camera taking pictures and videos. The video of all of us in the basket was supplied by Balloon Adventures Emirates but all the other videos and pictures were taken by me.
As I’ve already mentioned, the sunrise was completely amazing. You could see it slowly climbing over the horizon, filling the sky with oranges and reds, making it a magical moment to remember. There was a second balloon as part of our group so it was great being able to take pictures of it to give a better understanding of the distinctive point of view we had.
We climbed to a top height of 4,000 feet and from there, the dunes in the desert below look like mere ripples in a small pond. It wasn’t until we landed that you had a much better perspective of just how big they really are. For the most part, the sand also gives way under your feet and sink to about ankle depth. I couldn’t imagine having to walk out of where we landed to get back to civilization. While we waited for the chase vehicles to reach, we climbed some of the dunes and we were sinking to mid-calf in some areas.
We were lucky enough to spot a herd (pack, group, gang???) of camels and floating right over them. I don’t know if they were wild but they certainly didn’t seem the least bit disturbed about being out there. Just before we landed, I spotted a lone gazelle streaking through the sands. I was able to get one picture and was about to try shooting some video when Captain Piotr insisted I get in the landing position. I didn’t argue.
The best line of the trip was from our intrepid Captain when he said just as we were about to land, and I quote, “This is not the time to ask any existential questions!” Brilliant that! He brought us down smoothly with just a tiny jump or two, for which he apologized. Hell, I thought it was a great landing.
We all climbed out of the basket, had some cold water and did a bit of exploring. When the chase vehicles arrived, we got onboard and began the trip back to the nearest road. Man!! That was some ride. Our driver seemed to delight in going over some dunes at top speed. Needless to say, with all the jostling taking place, we became even more intimately familiar with each other. LOL. We were a veritable United Nations in there. Australia, Tangiers, Morocco, Puerto Rico and CANADA were all represented.
Hot air ballooning over the deserts of Dubai. I highly recommend starting your day off this way!