By Cheranka Mendis
Sri Lanka Tourism is getting ready to be whisked off in the air with hot air ballooning making a quick comeback with the Hot Air Balloon Festival all set to kick off on Monday.
Held for the fourth time, the balloon fest will see participants from America, England, Italy, Japan, Germany, Switzerland and Sri Lanka. The organiser of Ceylon Airship and Balloon Club Capt. Anil Jayasinghe speaking at a press briefing yesterday stated that the festival will be held from 19 March to 2 April. “Some 15 balloons will take off and thanks to the peace situation, will float over to Sigiriya, Dambulla, Anuradhapura, Trincomalee, and Jaffna,” Jayasinghe revealed. The itinerary shows that the balloons will receive thumbs up on 21, 22 and 23 March, take a break and then take off again on 26, 27, and 28.
A special event will be held on 1 April, where all balloons will line up at the Independence Square to be viewed by Balloonatics from Sri Lanka. The event is scheduled to be held at 7 p.m at the Square. “It is not possible to fly in Colombo as the area is highly congested, however we are able to visit areas that were not accessible before, in the previous balloon fests in 2003, 2005 and 2008.”
When questioned as to why there are no participants from the region he asserted that the sport is still a new one in the region and is a niche product that needs high financial requirements. “Sri Lanka is a tempting destination and I believe that this is the only air balloon festival in South Asia,” Jayasinghe said. The number of participants for the event is 40. He claimed that the initial idea was to have the festival in 2010 but due to requests from Sri Lanka Tourism to hold it alongside ‘Visit Sri Lanka 2011’ promotion the event was postponed to 2011.
SL’s first ever air balloon
Marking a first in the industry, self taught balloonist Capt. Anil Jayasinghe has designed and produced a hot air balloon with the Collaboration of Jack Klien. The balloon which is called ‘Alaska’ because it has been manufactured by a company in Alaska is Sri Lanka’s first ever hot air balloon. Jayasinghe quipped that he hopes to fly the balloon at this year’s festival.