Oriental Ballooning Ngapali


When people think of hot air ballooning in Myanmar, it’s more than likely the Bagan experience springs to mind. Although this is still one of the best classic experiences available, due to the large number of tourists it attracts, it may not appeal to those looking for something that’s personal and slightly more exclusive in nature.


In late 2015, Oriental Ballooning expanded their operation to include flights over Ngapali, a destination perhaps more famous for its long stretch of white sand beach and emerald blue waters. In our opinion however, it’s not possible to say that you’ve truly experienced Ngapali until you’ve done so from above. Thought it was just about sun, sea and sand? Think again.


At the crack of dawn, long before breakfast, Oriental Ballooning’s shuttle bus will pick you up from the hotel. Depending on the location of the take off point, you will be driven for approximately 30-45 minutes to a remote site close to Thandwe town (surprisingly, an area that very few tourists make their way to).


Once you’ve arrived at the takeoff site, a member of Oriental Ballooning’s mostly European crew will provide a friendly introduction before carrying out a compulsory health and safety briefing. They will then prepare the balloon for flight, leaving you to enjoy a hot drink and some light snacks. As soon as the balloon’s inflated to the pilot’s satisfaction, you’ll then be summoned into the basket to enjoy what is hopefully going to be one of the most memorable experiences of your life.


One of the best things about this experience is that landscape is ever changing and you won’t know which route the balloon’s going to fly until the day of the flight. You may fly towards the coast, adjacent to it, or perhaps further inland. Ideally you don’t want to fly toward the sea as that may lead to the experience finishing sooner than you’d ideally like, but you’ll still get the chance to take in awe-inspiring views of the surrounding mounting, tropical jungle and meandering Kissapanadi River.


More often than not, you’ll also be tracked down by an excited group of children, whom regularly chase the balloon from start to finish. You may also receive a few cheers and waves from mystified locals as you fly back over the market (remember, up until just recently, most had never seen a hot air balloon before).


The area is also home to a small number of hilltop stupas, which look particularly picturesque when surrounded by patches of mist. The symmetry of the design is much better appreciated when viewed from above too.


Birdwatchers will hopefully get the chance to spot some rare and exotic species; these are usually possible to spot as the balloon drifts low at tree top level. Some passengers have even reported hearing playful calls from wild macaque, although they’re typically found much deeper inside the Rakhine jungle. With this in mind, please don’t forget your binoculars or a good zoom lens.


As the pilot looks for a safe spot to land, the children who have been tracking you down for all this time will soon become apparent (assuming they weren’t cut off by the river). Due to the mostly rugged, obstacle-strewn terrain, it’s also now that you’ll start to appreciate the remarkable skill of the Oriental Ballooning’s pilot and his / her ability to read the speed and direction of the wind.


Once the balloon has landed safely, you’ll finish off the experience with the pilot popping open a bottle of bubbly. A transfer will then be arranged to ferry you back to the hotel in time for breakfast.


To book this experience, or to find out more information, please write to us now at info@tourmandalay.travel.


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