Hot air balloon over the Uluru

The Uluru is one of the iconic images of Australia and visiting the site is a must on any holiday or gap year.

Visitors will now be able to enjoy hot air balloon flights over the historic landmark with new operator Outback Ballooning. It is the first time ever that backpackers and travellers will be able to enjoy panoramic views of the Uluru at dawn from the comfort of a hot air balloon.

Flights are approximately 30-minutes long and float over the Patji region just outside Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, with Uluru viewed from the south. This area has never before been accessible to visitors without special permits.

Chief pilot John Sanby, 52, said they had been trying to get the project off the ground for 20 years. After negotiations with the Uluru family they were given permission to start hot air balloon flights near the Uluru, also known as Ayres Rock.

Mr Sanby said: “We spent the last couple of years just negotiating with the Uluru family and they were keen as anything. But we had to go through the whole process and, after a couple of years, we signed this agreement, which is great."

The ballooning experience includes a special cultural tour that explores the history of the Uluru family and the surrounding area.

The service offered by Outback Ballooning will take to the skies in March 2012.

Would you fly high over the Uluru? Where have you been hot air ballooning on your travels?

If you’re heading to Australia on a gap year then read our Australia country section for advice and information and read Louise Denton’s guide to Australia - it’s packed full of hints and tips on backpacking in Australia…