Sailing With Sinbad
There is something romantic about hot air balloons. On more than one occasion, I’ve stopped along the highway to watch them drift overhead in the hushed whoosh of a warm desert breeze. Now I’m not sure why the best ones always seem to be over dessert terrain, but from my point of view, I certainly wanted to go for a ride.
We booked with Sinbad Balloons out of Dubai. It was quick, easy, and within minutes realized that this was going to be another bucket list item that would be checked off the list.
Since we had our own transportation, we were told to meet at the Dubai Outlet Mall at the sleepy-eyed hour of 4am, which was by far the most difficult part. We had booked a night in a Dubai hotel to make the arrival hour a bit easier to cope with. Once everybody had been collected and/or arrived, we were shuffled into a small caravan of SUVs and set out for the launching site a short 30-minute drive away.
Predawn Flight Check
Located just off of E66 running from Dubai to Al Ain, two balloons were already being unrolled and filled with hot air by the time we arrived. There was breakfast laid out with options including fruit, pastries, coffee, tea, juices and water. At the early hour, we were all happy to have a bite as the restaurant in our hotel wasn’t open when we checked out.
In a matter of minutes both balloons were inflated and casually bobbing back and forth as a small army of personnel tried to keep them from sliding the baskets about on the ground. We were divided into 2 groups and instructed as to which balloon was ours. Once our pilot, Mohamed Youssef, was satisfied that we were nearly ready to go, he gave us the all-clear to climb over the basket wall and to find our position in preparation for take-off.
With a pull of the ignition, flames shot out of the propane burner and we began to rise from the ground. Another long burn and we drifted slowly upward into the pink and blue sky of the early morning dawn.
10 Miles Over You
Once in the sky, Mohamed started to fill us in about all of the landscape that was slowly gliding by beneath us. As we floated East, he would bring us to a mere handful of meters off the ground and gave us a bird’s eye view of camels grazing amongst the desert dunes. He even brought us down so we could have a look at a date farm or two which was met by waves from the workers that were outside at the early hour.
Once we had a little chuckle of seemingly landing in somebody’s backyard, Mohamed unleashed the propane tanks once again and we began our climb to an altitude of 4,000 feet. As we climbed the winds of change acted upon us and we began to drift in a Southeast direction. Over the Dubai border into Sharjah and then finally back to Abu Dhabi Emirate, our flight was filled with breathtaking views, periods of indescribable silence, and a lot of good-hearted laughter and fun along the way.
Not Coming Down Today
Arriving just shy of the Oman border, Mohamed landed us safely and softly in between two major arteries that ran to the Hatta Mountains. To our slight disappointment, the morning adventure had come to an end. We hung around for a bit, once the basket was loaded onto a flatbed (while we were still in it) to get a group photograph and to collect our personalized flight certificate that commemorated the morning’s adventure.
By the time we were loaded into our SUV and headed back to The Outlet Mall to collect our car, the balloon had been deflated and the same small group of personnel who got us underway were busy getting everything rolled up again.
We traveled approximately 60 miles over the course of the flight and saw some of the UAE that I had never seen before from a perspective that is hard to beat. Yes, there is still a romantic flair to hot air ballooning, and I will certainly go again. Who knows what I’ll see the next time?
Online: Check Availability
Email: Sinbad Balloons
Deluxe Hot Air Balloon: Starting from $285
Falcon Hot Air Balloon: Starting from $325
Private Hot Air Balloon: Starting from $3,265 (please contact them before)
*All prices are in US Dollars and subject to change without notice.
Dave Soucy at A Photographic Memory
Facebook: A Photographic Memory | Instagram: @apmnhphoto