Hot air ballooning has a rich history – it is the original form of aviation and was pioneered in France in 1783, so it seems only fitting that the first form of flight and the first rays of light in Australia are joined together in a wonderful experience in Byron Bay.
What many may not know is that ballooning suits Byron perfectly as it is a sunrise sport owing to the light and safe, navigable winds in the early morning.
Family owned and operated, Balloon Aloft Byron Bay opened last year out of the rising demand for the experience, not only from tourists, but old and new residents alike.
Balloon Aloft’s Taylor Miller says that ballooning is a bucket list adventure, often chosen to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, work and family get-togethers.
‘People who come fly with us love the scenic beauty and peacefulness,’ says Taylor. ‘They can’t believe the floating sensation and silence above the treetops on a calm dewy morning.’
Taylor says she enjoys seeing how passengers react to the experience. ‘Anyone who has any fear of flying or heights – which can be often – is quickly cured of that as soon as they see the gentle moment of lift-off. The majesty of the experience seems to just wash it all away. Also, the pilots are incredibly professional and helpful – somehow they seem to imbue a kind of serenity.’
Balloon sizes can vary according to the size of the group – a small VIP basket is available for a couple, and there is a big basket that can cater for up to 24 passengers.
Taylor says the Balloon Aloft Byron Bay experience lasts about four hours. ‘We meet at the Farm in Ewingsdale before dawn and after checking in we drive out to one of many launch sites across the region, depending on the winds of the day. The flight time lasts for one hour and then we return to the Farm for a wholesome coffee and breakfast at the Three Blue Ducks Restaurant. This is another great highlight to the morning because such a big morning outdoors really stimulates the appetite!’
After three months of COVID-19, Balloon Aloft is open again with special arrangements and more spacious basket compartments to accommodate the times.
Taylor says that Balloon Aloft pilots are CASA certified, the same as any other commercial aircraft pilot. ‘All the balloons are handmade and manufactured in Sydney, by the Kavanagh family, and are well recognised as the best in the world.’
Taylor says working with the balloons has made her fall in love with home all over again. ‘Having grown up in the region, I relish driving through the green valleys and seeing the morning sun wash over the landscape, near and beyond the coast. It’s wonderful being surrounded by a group of happy smiling passengers – it’s such a positive start to the day and generally, it’s a 5-9 instead of a 9-5!
‘For all of us, the crew and the pilots, it is one of the best jobs in the world, and in the best place in the world, and an amazing way to see the ocean and hinterland and the magic light of the rainbow region.’
Bookings for Balloon Aloft flights can be made at balloonaloftbyronbay.com.