Bill Harrop's Original Balloon Safari's Night Glow Event

By Jaco Pitout


Hot Air Balloons are fascinating! Sheep and ducks were the first to go flying in the 1700's, it was said that sheep have a reasonable approximation of human physiology and that the duck would not mind being aloft. The Montgolfier brothers sent the first humans up in their tethered balloon in 1783. Also notable is that King Louis XVI had made a decree that the first passengers in a free flying balloon would be condemned prisoners. Luckily, the honour of the first flight was bestowed upon a science teacher, François Pilâtre de Rozier and a soldier in the French Royal guard named François Laurent d'Arlandes.

Kitplanes for Africa

Fast forward several centuries, we are in an age where hot air balloon technology has advanced in leaps and bounds. Luckily, we have a hot air balloon mecca a short drive from Pretoria. Enter Bill Harrop's Original Balloon Safari's just outside the small country village of Skeerpoort. These days, this proud ballooning establishment is run by Dale de Klerk and a group of dedicated employees and volunteers.

The facility features a large open, mowed field where balloons can be inflated and handled, a reception and kitchen area, where, I am told, the most magnificent breakfast is served for guest returning from the balloon flights, as well as a well-appointed curio and memento shop where may purchase a variety of memorabilia to commemorate your special day soaring aloft on rising air.

Also on hand for this specific event was the kind hands of the people from the NG Church Skeerpoort. They were selling boerewors rolls, pancakes, curry and rice and a variety of drinks. This certainly made sure that there were no grumbling tummies!

As part of the festivities, the club members from Snoopy Squadron, in Krugersdorp brought along several radio-controlled models to place on static display and to fly. The flying segment featured a remote-control parachute drop and gentleman's aerobatics flown by Geoff Dale.

Encountering remote control skydivers is a first for me, little did I know, this would be the first time I would see a remote-control hot air balloon. This perfect miniature balloon has all the same functionality of a regular balloon including an on-board burner with a gas cannister. It attracted a lot of attention!

PilotsPost previously featured Michael Maja when he celebrated attaining his Commercial Balloon license. I had a long and interesting chat with Michael. His passion for the sport certainly shows! He might have convinced me that a balloon license is the next thing I need to add to my exceedingly long to do list. Whilst he and Gift Chaonkera prepared his balloon for inflation he took some time out to share some of his knowledge with me.

I also noticed that ballooning is a team sport, there is a lot of heavy lifting, carting around and general physicality. From the many smiles I observed, this did not seem to deter the enthusiasm of any of the pilots!

In another surprise, the Goodyear Eagles returned from a training flight in the general flying area and greeted the gathered crowd with a quick fly-past.

Then it was finally time for the main event! The inflation and display of the dinosaurs! In speaking with Jacqui Pastor, she said that these balloons are excellent marketing displays and that companies should look to invest in a balloon alongside their normal marketing efforts.

With a balloon being an unusual sight, it attracts a lot of attention and gives brands a lot more exposure. Also, during my chat with Jacqui, she informed me that everyone at Bill Harrop's Original Balloon Safari's is very thankful for all the surrounding landowners and community members in their contribution in either giving of their time, allowing balloons to land on their property and for being great neighbours. With a roar of flames, all the balloon pilots ignited their burners and lit up the Skeerpoort skies! What a sight this was to behold!

If you have not yet spoiled yourself with a balloon flight, I suggest you hurry to Bill Harrop's Original Balloon Safari's in the Skeerpoort Valley, something tells me, it will be an experience you will never forget!

For more information go to:

Bill Harrop's Dinosaur Balloon Derby 2022

Events 2024

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