Dubai Destinations: Soar above the desert sands in a hot air balloon

Experience Dubai's pristine dunes like never before

By Sherouk Zakaria

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Published: Thu 23 Dec 2021, 11:37 AM

Get an enchanting bird-eye view of the desert, soak in majestic views of the sunrise and enjoy an adrenaline-free experience all at once.

This winter, citizens and residents can see Dubai in a new light and renew their connection with nature with a hot air balloon ride, a dream-like adventure that reflects Dubai’s exceptional wealth of activities.

In this bucket list worthy experience, passengers float 4,000 feet above Dubai’s pristine dunes in a surrealistic sunrise scene that casts stunning shades of orange and yellow over the morning sky behind Al Hajar Mountains.

Gazelles, Arabian oryx, and camels are spotted wandering through the vast desert in the peaceful quiet.

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To catch the full magical experience, we start our journey in the wee hours of the morning.

Guests are advised beforehand to dress comfortably and warmly to beat the cold breeze.

Waking up early would be the sole concern as the balloon ride’s organisers secure a pick-up for each guest in Dubai.

At 5am sharp, a black minivan turns up at our place of residence in Dubai. Three other passengers are already in the car, as we head with drowsy enthusiasm into the depth of Margham desert.

We arrive at the desert camp 45 minutes later, walking across a cold desert that shines under a full bright moon.

Despite the early cold morning, there’s an impressive turnout of passengers ready to kick off a magical day. The organisers tell us that the balloon ride season this year attracted 6,940 guests since September until today.

Dispersed in groups across five different camp stations, we are welcomed with a hot cup of Arabian coffee and a spectacular drone show that sees gentle lights painting the early morning sky, ending with the word formation “Be a Hero.”

After a short safety briefing from the internationally-licensed pilots, five giant balloons are soon inflated with fire in a spectacular scene that builds up the enthusiasm.

It takes 10 minutes for the attached passenger baskets to tilt up vertically in readiness to receive passengers when the balloons are filled with enough hot air.

We are asked to rush into the four-compartment basket, each of which accommodate six passengers before the balloon slowly ascends into the faintly-tainted sky over the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve.

Organiser Giulia Figliuzzi, head of marketing at Hero Experiences Group, says while the take-off point is pre-set in Margham desert, the landing spot is always unpredictable.

“There’s an element of thrill. We always know we will take off from Margham desert, but the landing is a question mark because the balloon lands in different spots depending on the wind.”

About 15 minutes into the ride at about 1,000ft high, the sun slowly rises behind Hajjar mountains, turning the sky into a canvas adorned with bright hues.

The hot air balloon drifts across the desert as gently as a dream, rising gradually to reach at 4,000ft high. The breathtaking, surrealistic landscape, overlooking clusters of small oases, enchants passengers whose mobile screens are capturing every minute.

The vast desert was visibly marked with animal tracks in testament of the UAE’s rich wildlife.

Explaining the hot air ballooning, Figliuzzi said: "Tt’s an exciting experience where people get a unique top view of nature without impacting it.”

After a smooth landing of the giant balloon on a road track at the heart of the desert, we are escorted by vintage 1950s Land Rovers to a traditional heritage camp where breakfast is served.

Organizers said the aim is to offer an authentic Bedouin experience that pays tribute to the UAE’s rich history and culture in every detail.

“The 1950s Land Rovers were the first motorized vehicles introduced to the UAE desert,” said Figliuzzi.

To complete the experience, guests get the chance to explore the desert on a short camel ride and meet Qizi, a falcon that travels 390km/hr.

We are then escorted back to our residence around 11am, leaving the Dubai desert with plenty of photographs, unforgettable memories and positive energy to continue the day.

The hot air ballooning season continues until May 2022, before a temporary summer suspension begins in June.


Safest form of aviation

What makes hot air ballooning special, according to organisers, is its safety. The US Federal Aviation Administration named hot air ballooning as the safest form of air travel rarely involved in aviation crashes.

Figliuzzi said the organizing company conducts equipment testing in collaboration with the UAE civil aviation authorities under strict safety procedures.

The balloon pilots are internationally licensed with experience in aviation across different terrains around the world. Balloon flights are subject to cancellation during rough winds.

Book your ride

From shared to private, you can book your preferred balloon ride at

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