Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Hot air balloon ride in Lonavala, Pune

Pls note: Hot air balloon rides are highly susceptible to weather and wind. If wind and weather is not favorable, balloon may not take off that day and your booking may be cancelled. So if you're making big plans, keep a small provision for the eventuality that it may not happen as per plan. Also if ride is cancelled, there's no concept of refund. Only transfer or rescheduling. Keep this in mind.

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Hot Air Balloon ride is one of the many activities on my wishlist which is still pending. Non availability of service providers anywhere nearby had prevented me in indulging in this activity. I’d heard it is done in Rajastan, but didn’t pursue it seriously then.

Checked the cost of balloon ride in Australia and Laos, it was coming close to 20k per ride. This plus travel & stay made it a very expensive proposition, hence was waiting for a more economic opportunity.
Opportunity knocked recently when a colleague spotted Bookmyshow page offering Hot Air Balloon Safari in Pune, for about Rs 8500 per person. Pune is fairly closer to where I stay compared to other North Indian locations, hence decided to pursue this ride this time, without waiting that it will come closer home further south.

Have booked a slot for 1 hour ride this month. Unfortunately this last minute planning meant shelling out two times the money for air ticket. Thus per person cost comes close to 20k (balloon safari, return flight, stay, transportation and other misc expenses. If you're staying closer to Pune, it will be a lot cheaper. 

The ride is organized by Skywaltz and is taking place in Lonavala, some 65 kms from Pune off Mumbai-Pune expressway. Ride lasts for about an hour, offering early morning aerial view of the sahyadri hill ranges around Lonavala.

Some quick FAQs on Hot Air Balloon ride:
How high the balloon will go?
Up to 4000-4300 ft

How long the balloon ride will last?
About 1 hour, +/- 15 mins, depending on wind, availability of proper landing space etc.

What is the cost of balloon Safari near Lonavala, Pune?
Rs 6000 for kids, Rs 8500 for individuals, Rs 16000 for couple

Are there group discounts/custom packages?
Pls check with organizers

What does the cost include?
Only ride and some light refreshments. Travel, stay etc to be arranged by guests on their own. Pickup & drop is arranged at Rs 500 per person on a sharing basis

For how many days this balloon ride is going on?
Looks like current camp is on till only May 31st. Rainy season starts in June, hence balloon may not be possible then. June onward organizers might offer the same ride somewhere else.

At what speed the balloon flies?
Depends fully on wind. Max speed we reached was in the range of 25-30kmph. 

Where else can I try Balloon ride in India?
Check organizer's website for schedule- they do offer it in Rajastan, Delhi NCR and other north Indian cities

What about our photos of Balloon Safari?
You're allowed to take your camera on board. Skywaltz balloon captain will take some photos with a goPro, which needs to be purchased separately: Rs 1500 for photos, Rs 2500 for videos.

Who is organizing this balloon safari?
A company called Skywatlz. Their claims are as below
·         First and the largest licensed and approved commercial Hot Air Balloon operator in India, 
·         Authorized by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation  (DGCA) - Government of India.
·         Licensed by Ministry of Civil Defense
·         Highly Experienced & Internationally certified Pilots
·         International Operating & Safety Standards
·         Insurance Cover as per International Norms

Are balloon rides safe?
Like any other adventure, there's a small % of risk. Accidents have happened when balloons hit power lines, or collided with each other, caught fire mid air or when strong gust of wind rendered the balloon un manageable. However operators follow stringent protocols to factor all known hazards/risks. If Weather is not favorable, ride is often cancelled. Location is selected such that possibility of obstacles are low. [Read these incidents of Hot Air Balloon accidents]

I noticed that skywaltz balloon is not tracked using GPS. Ground crew rely on radio communication of nearby landmarks to locate the balloon. In case of accidents this can delay the help arrival and make a difference between life and death. Skywaltz should add a GPS tracking facility to the balloons.
Where to book Balloon Safari?
Either book via Bookmyshow Or contact the organizers

My booking experience:
When I booked on Bookmyshow, I got a ticket for sure, but it hardly had any info about the ride. (Bookmyshow doesn't differentiate between a movie ticket and adventure sports). I sent a mail to their support team asking for contact details of the organizers, but no reply so far in past 24 hours. I contacted the organizer directly to collect additional details. 

I am told that there's a risk that ride may not happen on the day I've booked, due to bad weather. So let us see.

My Flight Experience: Read it here 

Do read:
Anu Menon's Balloon riding experience

Images sourced from skywaltz website


Anu Menon said...

Awesome! I loved every bit of my first time too :) We went almost 4 yrs back and it cost us $475 for the two of us in a shared balloon ride. Although I loved it I doubt if I would do it again very soon.
We booked our tickets here:

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Hi Anu
Yes, the cost I'd checked was also in similar range.

How was your experience? Which city was it?

Anu Menon said... i had done a guest post on ur blog :)

राकेश श्रीवास्तव said...

lovely post. i am unable to resist to ride hot baloon.

Shrinidhi Hande said...


Oops! I forgot. Have linked to that post now

Rakesh: Go for it

ವಿ.ರಾ.ಹೆ. said...

Eager to read your hot balloon ride experience ...

Prasad Np said...

Interesting to know that this is available now in India and no special skills are needed to enjoy a hot air balloon ride.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Vi Ra he: Sure

Prasad: Yes. Charges are also reasonable

Hotels in Pune said...

Great post.keep posting