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Ballooning in Melbourne

This morning I travelled up, up and away in a hot-air balloon over Melbourne. I received the ride as a gift and it was the the fifth attempt following numerous weather-related cancellations.

The ride was booked with Global Ballooning who admittedly were a bit of a nuisance with administration. After we booked and paid online, they demanded that we email a photograph with our credit card and driver’s licence to “ensure that the credit card wasn’t stolen”. Obviously, I wasn’t going to agree to that for a host of fairly obvious security-related reasons. After considerable discussion back-and-forth, they agreed to drop this absurd request and common sense prevailed.

Anyway, with that unpleasantness sorted-out and a promising morning forecast, I was up at 4:30am today in time to meet my tour group at the Pullman Hotel in East Melbourne at 5:30am. After a brief intro, we boarded a small bus and travelled to Kevin Bartlett Reserve (behind my alma mater Burnley College of Horticulture) to set-up.

It was fascinating to see how the hot air balloons were launched. I’d never really put any thought into how it is done. In essence, a couple of people hold the sides of the hot-air balloon whilst a large fan pumps air inside. Once it’s suitably inflated, gas is ignited and a “flame thrower”-style blast of flames is projected inside until the balloon is light enough to rise. It takes about 20 minutes.

Preparing the hot air balloon for launch.
Preparing hot-air balloons for launch at Kevin Bartlett Reserve in Richmond.

The basket was smaller than I expected but it was comfortable. Taking off was initially slow but after dodging trees, light poles and mobile phone towers, we were off.

Looking up into the hot-air balloon from below immediately before launch.
State-of-the-art navigation and radio-communications equipment was used during the flight.

The ride lasted for about three-quarters of an hour and travelled north-east from Burnley over Richmond, Collingwood, Fitzroy, Princes Hill, Brunswick, Brunswick West, Pascoe Vale, Strathmore and down into Essendon Airport.

Slowly ascending from Kevin Bartlett Reserve in Burnley.
The sunrise was impressive, as was the view.

The views were magnificent and our pilot Clement was an excellent guide. The original plan had been to land in Royal Park but the weather was favourable enough to head further north to Essendon Airport.

A view over the city of Melbourne from the hot-air balloon.
Pilot Clement Seigeot navigating the hot air balloon.
Multiple hot-air balloons were travelling with us over Melbourne.
Looking north-west towards Essendon Airport.

Landing was an interesting process and I wondered how the pilot would be able to “steer” our craft into the right spot but somehow it happened and we landed safely. The landing was much smoother than I’d anticipated.

Preparing to land at Essendon Airport.

The packing-up was the slowest part but also the most participatory. I actually really enjoyed this part of the experience, more than I’d expected.

Helping to deflate the hot-air balloon by pushing out all of the air.
Packing-up the hot-air balloon at Essendon Airport.

Floating over Melbourne in a hot-air balloon was a wonderful experience. I’m so glad I did it.

Riding over Melbourne in a hot-air balloon. Image credit: Clement Seigeot/Global Ballooning


One response to “Ballooning in Melbourne”

On 20 February 2022, Andrew wrote: Hyperlink chain icon

Over ten years ago we flew from Fishermans Bend to Bulleen, after two weather cancellations. We kind of crash landed and it was anything but smooth. Quite a number of dogs barked at the balloon floating overhead. Very often of late at least six balloons have landed here at Fawkner Park. This morning a couple went on further to I guess Alma Park. Given the lack of international tourists, there must be some serious local pent up demand for balloon flights. Glad you enjoyed your flight.

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