Laxmi Gauchan, a resident of Kathmandu was amazed by the news of about the inception of hot air balloon in Pokhara. She could now take the pleasure of taking part in the courageous sport, which she could only witness through the television and other countries. “Even though I was alone, I came to Pokhara. It was a joy to be up with the clouds,” recounts Laxmi. She further added, “For people who are agitated or are afraid of paragliding or ultra-light flight, a hot air balloon is a fantastic option.”
Hot air balloon has been in operation in Pokhara since the third week of November 2018. Balloon Nepal Private Limited is the organizer of the hot air balloon in Pokhara. With an initial investment of Rs. 1.5 crore, the company will be increasing future investments with core analysis of the ongoing business. Another company had tried a hot air balloon business in Nepal in 2003, but due to circumstances like political instability, the investors stepped aside as it was not profitable for them.
Taking off from a big farm in front of Phewa Lake early in the morning, your balloon floats up to the sky, where you get to view the mesmerizing sunrise, after which, the balloon lands at Hemja. Hot air ballooning is geared to be the next big hit after paragliding, ultra-light flight, zip flying, etc in Pokhara. The city is all set to nurture its tourism to explore its untouched extravagance of ancient cities, green mountains and jungles, besides its already famous rivers, lakes and mountains with the hot air balloon.
The company, Balloon Nepal will be given similar permission by the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), like that given to a ultralight flight. With permission, they should also be in close coordination with the tower at Pokhara Airport, before, during and after the hot air balloon flight. The call sign 9 NAW has been assigned for the same. For every flight that takes off or lands, the pilot of the hot air balloon coordinates with the airport tower. At the moment, the company has been given approval for hot air balloon flights up to 500 meters. “The aim is to commercially start the hot air balloon flight in Pokhara, then Chitwan and Lumbini,” says Prabin Maharjan, Director of Balloon Nepal Pvt.Ltd. He further said, “Pokhara is just the beginning, and we are overwhelmed by the positive response.” Two balloons, with a capacity of 6 to 8 people each were bought. For operating the hot air balloon flights, the company has rented the hangar of ultralight flight company, Avia Club in Thulo Khet.
People who have booked the hot air balloon flight are picked up at Lakeside and are driven to the hangar at 5 am. The employees ready the balloon at the destination. A gas stove is lit to fill the hot air inside the balloon, readying it for the flight. The pilot instructs the passengers about safety measures and welcomes them onto the basket, located on the lower end of the balloon. Until and unless the balloon is fully air-filled and ready for flight, it is controlled with the ropes while on land. The ropes are then released, and the balloon floats along with the direction of the wind. “The hot air that we fill for the balloon assists it to fly. Controlling the pace of the hot air, we balance the outer air and the movement of the balloon,” said the balloon pilot. Upon landing, the balloon is balanced in such a way that the magnitude of the hot air inside the balloon lessens and assists for a safe landing.
“Hot air balloon has its own perks. It might not be a thrilling experience for those who wish to compete with the wind flow, but it is relaxing and calming time while enjoying the nature beneath,” says Prabin Maharjan.
The price of the hot air balloon in Pokhara varies for Nepalis and foreigners. For an hour flight, it costs Rs. 11,000 for Nepalis and US$ 160 for foreigners, while the half-hour flight costs Rs. 6,000 for Nepalis and US$ 90 for foreigners. Maharjan guarantees that the costs are more affordable than what the other nations are charging. He claims that each passenger taking the flight has been insured US$ 20,000 each.
As the winter tides are slowly hitting the country, the fogs make the view of the textured landscape an eyesore, until the sun clears them. Since it is a new sport, it has created much hype in the Nepali market.
Amy Thapa, a tourist from England reviewed the balloon flight to be safe and unique. “Back in England, hot air balloon flights aren’t available in the city or crowded areas, which is similar to the experience in Pokhara. On a clear weather, it is fun to fly in the hot air balloon,” says Amy.
Pokhara has positioned itself as the top city for tourists traveling to Nepal, especially those who come to Nepal for memorable adventures. The success of the hot air balloon in Pokhara hangs in the balance of the people who are interested in taking to the skies in a balloon.
ONE hour flight cost
Rs. 11,000 for Nepalis
US$ 160 for a foreigners
Rs. 6,000 for Nepalis &
US$ 90 for foreigners