Aerial Views of Jaipur
I am a cowardly sort, so when the travel agent insisted I take the group of American travellers on a balloon safari in Jaipur, I was a bit nervous. Waking up at an ungodly hour (still dark and well before dawn) and sitting in the lobby, waiting for our pick up was no fun either.
A 20-minute drive later, we were brought to the launch site, in a vast open barren ground, where we watched as they inflated the balloon. Since it is called a “launch site” I was expecting some kind of dramatic shaking, jerking, tossing around during take-off, but surprisingly it was very gentle –we sort of just rose into the air and ‘wafted’ off. It was an unexpectedly smooth journey throughout- very calm, slow and silent (except for the occasional roar of the burner and our excited oohs and aahs). This was nice!
(The propane burners heat the air in the balloon and inflate it…and voila, it’s ready to go)
However, as we gained height I discovered that only the altitude is in control of the pilot, whereas direction is completely dependent on the breeze. What?! No control over what we are doing here?? I turned and looked at the pilot with some concern, to put it mildly, as he told us this—but he seemed cheerful and super cool (he was Australian, so, ofcourse, he was super cool). No one else seemed bothered either, so I kicked myself, took a deep breath and decided to go with the flow (literally).
Given this information, our views of the city were going to depend on where we drifted. We did not know where we were going to land either. (That explained why the Skywaltz team jeeps were following us the whole time).
Well, we were in luck and were able to get a pretty decent view of Amber fort before we drifted off over the rural areas. Looking down at the fort, which we had just visited the previous day, we realized how expansive and massive the entire complex was. A totally different perspective!
My pictures of our Amber fort view turned out quite bad, so I am using Sky Waltz’s images, which show pretty much what we saw of Amer.
Sometimes the pilot took us quite low, especially over the countryside where we could see and hear the people on the ground looking up at us in awe, waving out to us. The dogs, however, did not seem as enthralled to see the balloon and made it evident with their barking.
We spent a beautiful one hour floating above the earth, watching the sunrise, seeing life below, and realizing how small we really are.
When we started descending we could see our jeeps whizzing around trying to determine where we would land exactly. Before they could get to us we already had a large reception committee awaiting us—a huge crowd from the village had gathered and more people were running towards us with great excitement. Kids and adults alike, with their wide eyes and mouths open in amazement! Once we landed, the faces broke out in beautiful wide smiles (phew, they are only humans, not aliens).
My group members loved this all because of the unexpected and impromptu interaction with so many people at once.
An absolutely beautiful end to a beautiful morning.
So, what was my conclusion after this experience?
TOTALLY a must-do. One of the most beautiful ways to see places.
Now, I recommend it to everyone who cares to listen:
If you have never done a hot air balloon ride, don’t miss it while you are in India. Seeing India at eye level is amazing but it is absolutely mind-blowing to get an aerial view.
Here is some more information that might be helpful for when you do it:
There are a handful of government approved hot balloon safari companies in India, but the most well established and preferred one is Sky Waltz. They had a superbly professional crew and pilot who were great fun to be with. They operate in several locations in Rajasthan and at one location in Maharashtra at the moment. Some of the other companies are operational in other parts of the country as well.
Balloon rides take place very early in the morning or in the late afternoon. This is so that the sun is not high in the sky, which helps create the right temperature and wind conditions for the flight.
The balloon wicker-basket is divided into compartments for everyone to be able to stand comfortably. They have different sized baskets but 8 is the maximum people they take.
Jasmine Trails can help you weave this into your itinerary so get in touch if you would like this to be a part of your experience.