Hot Air Balloons & Technicolour Winds

There are few reasons why anyone would agree to wake hours before the sun. A sunrise hot air balloon flight over the Magalies River Valley in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, well, that’s reason enough.

Silence. This is the place of morning calm, where I imagine the day that is to be, comes to collect its thoughts. Hundreds of metres above the treetops, the hot air balloon glides on the tail of the technicolour wind, at 14 knots an hour. A genteel mist lingers over the river meander that is hugged by autumnal hues and leads towards a patchwork of agricultural farms. The sun shows off its reflection in Hartbeespoort Dam on the horizon and once it rises high enough, I trace the balloon’s shadow across the rocky hill below. And to think that I am only 45 minutes away from Johannesburg’s northern suburbs.

Brad, our commercial pilot for the hour-long flight, skilfully manoeuvres low enough for us to spot a hare on a boulder. A metre or two lower and I could easily jump out, if I wanted to. Zebras, Springbok and Blue Wildebeest weave their way across the landscape. They are unfazed by our presence, probably because they can’t hear our camera shutters. With a few controlled bursts of the burners the hot air balloon rises again, over the hill to our soft landing within Segwati Ranch.

As the team bundles the envelope of the hot air balloon – it involves quite a bit of stomping, compressing and deflating, similar to that of packing a sleeping bag – guests clink their champagne glasses. ‘Tis only the appetiser for the champagne buffet breakfast that is to follow.

After we’re satiated, Brad presents us with citations for braving the African skies during a ceremony. But with 33 years of experience as a fully licensed airline and hot air balloons made by the world’s largest manufacturer – Cameron Balloons in England – you simply can’t go wrong with Bill Harrop’s “Original” Balloon Safaris. By mid-morning I’m off on my next adventure.

Bill Harrop’s “Original” Balloon Safaris


Tel: +27(0)11-705-3201

Email: [email protected]

Iga Motylska

Iga Motylska is a Johannesburg-based freelance writer, photojournalist, sub-editor and blogger. She is published in numerous local and international publications, including: Forbes Africa, Forbes Woman Africa, Forbes Life Africa, CNBC Africa, Ventures Africa, Marie Claire, Sawubona, AA Traveller, Fastjet inflight magazine and Seoul Magazine among numerous others. Her editorial interests range from documenting the entrepreneurial spirit to women's and human rights issues, environmental affairs and of course travel writing.


  1. Wow, what an amazing experience! The views from this height are absolutely breathtaking. It’s amazing that you were so close to the suburbs; the area looks incredibly isolated. I’m glad you had a great experience!

    • Thanks Jessica, yeah it really was incredible. It’s about one and a half drive from Johannesburg, near Hartbeespoort Dam. Would love to go on another hot air balloon flight soon. :)

  2. Such epic photographs and I love your writing!!! I am definitely going to do this soon. How much does it cost?

    • Thanks Kayleigh, much appreciated! :) It was quite an adventure. You can find all the necessary details through the link to their website at the bottom of this post. Let me know how it goes. :)

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