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We fly to some pretty amazing places, and we're always on the hunt for exciting new ways to see them. In the first of a new series called Experience This, we'll be taking a look at some of the best activities, adventures and one-off events in and around Virgin Atlantic's destinations, giving you the lowdown on what to expect and how to arrange for yourself.
Floating past Uluru in a Hot Air Balloon
Many of Virgin Atlantic's passengers to Sydney want to explore Australia further afield, and Uluru is near the top of most wishlists. Now for the first time ever, travellers heading to Australia's Red Centre will be able to take off at dawn and enjoy panoramic views of Uluru (Ayers Rock) from the comfort of a hot air balloon. Outback Ballooning, who also offer flights over Alice Springs and the Flinders Ranges, will start offering flights from March 2012.
The half-hour flights float over the Patji region just outside Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, with Uluru viewed from the south (depending on wind direction). This is an area that has never before been accessible to visitors without special permits, but thanks to an agreement with the traditional Anangu owners of the area, you'll now have the opportunity to visit authentic aboriginal lands as part of the Outback Ballooning tour. While the focus of the experience is the balloon flight itself, this is a unique opportunity to visit a special part of the Australian desert landscape free from any other tourists.
During the journey you'll be able to soak up the vastness of the surrounding desert and gaze in wonder as the rock gradually changes colour throughout the morning sunrise. From the airborne viewing platform you'll get jaw-dropping views of this natural icon which stands 348 metres high and measures almost six miles around. As part of the trip, you'll enjoy a light bush breakfast and can help re-pack the balloon after it lands.
Priced at AU$450 per person (approx £294) for a 30-minute flight, the four hour experience also includes transfers to and from your accomodation. Visit Outback Ballooning for further info and terms and conditions.
It's important to note that the balloon flights do not occur over Uluru itself but take place to the south, though it is still clearly visible. Uluru and Kata Tjuta have great cultural significance for the local indigenous people and respect for this precludes flights happening directly overhead. The area is also a World Heritage Site.
Virgin Atlantic operates a daily flight to Sydney via Hong Kong; head to Virgin Australia for domestic flights from Sydney to Uluru (Ayers Rock). For a full range of Australia holidays including Northern Territory accommodation, visit Virgin Holidays. All photos courtesy of Tourism NT.
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About the author: MaxineMaxine Sheppard
Maxine is the editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.