Think a hot air balloon ride is thrilling? Try one while the world’s fastest animal swoops to and from your basket…

Dubai loves a world first, and we have another one: you can now take a morning hot air balloon ride with a twist – a speedy falcon will come up in the basket with you and then swoop to and from its trainer’s arm once you reach 4,000 feet.

We got to try it out last week – here’s a glimpse:

The project wasn’t an easy one and it involved a lot of moving parts. It’s been developed in a collaboration between tour company Platinum Heritage, hot air ballooning experts Balloon Adventures, falconry team Royal Shaheen and car company Land Rover (fast fact: the latter has been in the UAE since 1940).

It took a total of five months to train the falcons to be able to calmly fly to and from the huge balloons.

The most tricky variable was the burner in the middle of the balloons – the falconers had to work hard to get the birds comfortable with the flame (which can be very noisy). But they now clearly are: when we went up with the bird in the basket she happily sat on the edge, even as the balloon’s flame roared.

We even got to hold her on our arms as we floated over the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve.


Here’s more on how it all happened:

Want to try it out yourself?

The experience costs Dhs1,100 a person (that includes pick up and drop off, the hot air balloon ride, the falconry demonstration, breakfast and a trip in a 1950s Land Rover), and it runs from October 1 to May 31). More info and bookings on Balloon Adventures’ website.