Hot air balloons to dot the Sarawak skies in Borneo Balloon Fiesta 2020

Karim (3rd left) with Borneo Balloon Fiesta 2020 organisers.

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KUCHING, Mar 10: Hot air balloons have always been a fascinating and captivating sight all over the world and for the first time ever, Sarawak will host the Borneo Balloon Fiesta 2020 at Dataran Stadium Negeri in Petra Jaya.

The event which offers free entry to all local and foreign visitors will be held from April 11 to 12, from 6.30am to 9.30pm.

Urging members of the public to come and experience the inaugural fest, Minister of Tourism, Art, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said these brightly coloured balloons that defy gravity with the simple use of massive burners will draw an unforgettable bewilderment.

“We want to introduce a unique activity to Sarawak and International Balloon Festivals are something that is commonly held in numerous countries such as New Mexico, United States of America, Japan and France.

“Visitors to the Fiesta in Kuching will be able to get a close-up view of the hot air balloons and the brave hearted can ride these beautiful floating wonders. The main attractions are the six huge hot air balloons; three balloons will be for tethered rides and another three balloons will be displayed on the ground, including two special shaped international balloons,” Abdul Karim said at a press conference today.

Three balloons will be used for paid ticketed tethered rides at RM50 per person and all the proceeds from this will be donated to charity.

Tickets for the tethered rides will be available at the fiesta grounds half an hour before the tethered balloon rides commence.

There will be a limit to about 180 passengers in the morning session from 6.30am till 9.30am and another 180 passengers in the evening session from 6.00pm till 9.00pm.

“It is intended that over time the Borneo Balloon Fiesta will place Sarawak on the map for International Balloonists to come to Sarawak as the event grows in stature and recognition. This is the first time for us, so if response is good, we can make it bigger and an annual event,” Abdul Karim said.

One of the hot air balloon pilot Izzati Khairuddin who also spoke at the press conference said flights will be subject to favourable weather conditions.

“A tethered balloon ride is where the balloon is anchored to the ground as the passengers ride up with a balloon pilot to a height of 18 meters (60 feet) from the ground. Each ride can carry two to three passengers or up to 180kg (depending) on the combined weight of the passengers,” Izzati explained.

She added that there is a minimum age of 6-years-old and minimum height of 4 feet (1.2 meters) to go on the balloon ride.

This is to ensure that parents will not carry their children when they are in the basket as it can be dangerous.

Pregnant women are also strictly not allowed to go on the rides.

On the ground, during the ‘cold inflation’ activity, visitors will have a chance to get up close and personal with the giant balloons.

Visitors can also walk inside the balloon envelope and pose for photos as a balloon cover is filled with cool air.

Karim also added that another not-to-be-missed spectacular highlight of the Fiesta is the daily 8.45pm Night Glow Climax showcasing the balloon burners lighting up the night and syncing to the lively music, signalling the end of a day of fun-filled and family-centred activities for the day.

During the day, visitors to the Fiesta can have fun with inflatables such as Bubble Soccer Game, Bungee Run, Duck Combo and others.

There will be food and beverage stalls, and food trucks providing mouthwatering food operating the whole day.

In addition, visitors can take part in games such as Angry Birds, Duck Hunt, Electrifying Maze, Penalty Shoot and many others.

There will be clowns, jugglers and stilt walkers moving round entertaining young and old.

Children can participate in sand art painting or face painting sessions.

“This is indeed a good event for domestic tourism. Those in and outside Kuching should bring their family members as this is a good family outing as well. We never had hot air balloon fest nor seen them flying over Kuching, so this will be amazing. We want the bonding and harmony created when people gather their family and friends to have fun and mingle as this will enhance our ‘muhibbah’ spirit,” Abdul Karim said.

Meanwhile, he added that one week before the actual event, organisers will conduct a real flight departing from either Padang Merdeka or Swinburne University, crossing the city, Sungai Sarawak and Petra Jaya. However, this is also subject to weather condition.

As for the measures taken in view of COVID-19 outbreak, Abdul Karim said they are fully aware of the situation and it is being closely monitored with daily updates and taking necessary precaution towards cleanliness and hygiene, ensuring regular sanitization of the rides and facilities during the fest. —DayakDaily

Hot air balloon pilot Izzati Khairuddin speaking to reporters at a press conference.