In the early1970’s after experiencing and enjoying life as a yachtsman, singer, hotelier, portrait photographer and advertising executive in the UK and Bermuda, Bill and his wife Mary immigrated and settled in South Africa.
In 1981 Bill Harrop’s “Original” Balloon Safaris was founded. With Bill and Mary at the helm for 40 years they were constantly amazed at their good fortune to have built an amazing team of great people whose goals and actions aligned with their objectives. Their objective was never to be “big” but rather “to focus on more satisfying business goals” such as being the “best at what we do” by “creating a stimulating place to work”, “providing exceptional customer service” and “making important contributions to our community”.
Bills contribution to the South African Tourism industry was enormous, from serving on local tourism bodies, supporting tourism education and representing South Africa on international tourism bodies he certainly left an indelible imprint on each and every person her met. In Bills words “It is not who you leave behind, but what you leave behind that really counts”.
The legacy created is one that his family, friends and team are incredibly proud of.
Founder 1947 – 2021
Behind every successful man is a great women. Mary was not only behind Bill but at his side and often way out in front. Affectionately known as “Sarge” if something needed to be done, Mary was “onto it” (and so was everyone else!) until it was completed!
A real mover and shaker. Engaging in every segment of the business Mary was known for not taking any nonsense and it was this trait that allowed the company to become the success it is today.
She enjoyed travelling and accompanying Bill to the many tourism related events, creating deep and meaningful relationships locally, nationally and internationally. She loved travelling to visit family in the UK and Australia, and despite sometimes being away was always just a phone call away for any member of the team who needed anything! “It’s not how much we give, it’s how much we put into giving”….. this will resonate with every person whose lives Mary touched.
Bill and Mary were a formidable team, their hearty laughs, sense of humour and smiles will be remembered in every sunrise from hereon.
Dale De Klerk
CEO (Started September 2021)
Dale de Klerk is a passionate aviator! Having developed an interest in aviation at the age of 7 he has not stopped learning, embracing new opportunities and …
… becoming fully involved in all aspects of aviation from hang gliding, microlights, gliders, power flying, para gliding and holding ratings for over 140 types of aircraft it was merely a matter of time before he found himself in a hot air balloon! Having been an inspector for maintenance and repairs approved by the SACAA & Aeroclub of South Africa, right through to qualifying as an instructor Dales commitment to the aviation industry has been invaluable.
Dales passion for flying led him to build, develop and grow his successful flying school Alpi Aviation.
When the opportunity as CEO arose in Bill Harrop’s “Original” Balloon Safaris, he knew that this was his next adventure in aviation. He stepped up right away with passion and excitement and, as was predicted by all who knew him, he immediately committed to start gaining his hot air balloon licence!
When he is not IN the air Dale builds, restores & flies experimental and vintage aircraft.
In his spare time he enjoys spending time with “the best thing that ever happened to him”, his lovely wife Maggie!
Together they have travelled to all corners of the globe including North America, Europe and Africa.
His 3 greatest aspirations are to fill Bills shoes as best he can and continue to make the company a huge success, to provide an unforgettable experience to all of our passengers and guests, and to obtain his hot air balloon pilots license.
Chief Pilot & Maintenance Engineer (Started in the 1980’s)
As a young lady, Tracy was passionate about “everything aviation”. It was through ballooning that she met Bill and Mary …
… and this was the start to an amazing friendship that spanned 4 decades.Getting involved in ballooning right away she started crewing and soon realised that THIS is was what she wanted to do! With a zest for life and up for the challenge, she set about becoming a hot air balloon pilot and at the age of 17 was South Africa’s youngest qualified pilot in the African skies!
The adventurer spirit in Tracy was clear in all she did, travelling around the globe and having the privilege of flying in over 12 countries and has clocked over 4900 hours. From deserts, to bush Tracy has done it all!
In between her many travels she flew on and off for the Harrop’s throughout her career.
When she is not flying high, she enjoys a mix of riding her motorbike on the roads less travelled; building, restoring and flying vintage aircraft; exploring; and being involved in anti-poaching projects in the Magaliesburg Mountains.
Although a traveller by nature one will also find her comfortably at home reading (and WOW does she have a library of books!), painting everything from landscapes to portraits, playing her guitar and simply relaxing with her dogs.
Tracy’s greatest aspiration is to continue the legacy of Bill and Mary – her friends and mentors who will be “alongside” her in every sunrise as she takes off on each and every flight.
Pilot and Reservations
Meet Michael Maja, a remarkable individual whose journey from childhood fascination to becoming South Africa’s first black commercial hot air balloon pilot is nothing short of inspiring.
Michael’s story is a testament to his unwavering dedication and passion to the world of ballooning,
Growing up in the Harrop family, Michael was surrounded by the enchanting world of balloons from a young age. This family connection ignited his passion for hot air ballooning, ultimately leading him to achieve his hot air balloon licence.
As a youngster Michael was fondly known as “Little Michael”. He began his journey in the world of balloons as a junior crew member and steadily climbed the ranks to become a junior crew leader and eventually a senior crew leader.
After completing school Michael studied law and gained valuable experience across various industries. However, the allure of ballooning and his deep-rooted connection to the industry and Harrop family drew him back.
In 2021 he joined our reservations and marketing team and set an ambitious goal for himself: to obtain his pilot licence.
In August 2023 Michael had finally turned his dream into reality as he achieved his long awaited goal… he was South Africa’s first black commercial hot air balloon pilot.
Outside of his professional life in the skies you will find Michael keeping fit at the gym, as well as relaxing with friends, family and loved ones.
Michaels’s adventurous spirit extends beyond ballooning, as he has already explored the beauty of Zambia. His greatest travel dream to travel the world leaving a positive impact and making a difference in the lives of people he meets along the way.
Michael’s story is one of passion, perseverance and the pursuit of dreams.
Marketing Manager – Started (officially) 1998
Daughter of Bill and Mary she started as a toddler “helping mummy and daddy”
but became fully involved after completing her studies.
She qualified in the dramatic arts as a Licentiate in drama through Trinity College of London as well as singing and dancing through the Royal College of London. In the tourism industry she has contributed with her services as Vice President of Travelbags for a number of years. Her travels have taken her to just about every country in North and South America as well as UK, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Mauritius, Mozambique, Zanzibar, Australia, Thailand, Seychelles, Swaziland, Singapore, Dubai, Bermuda and most of South Africa. She is currently pursuing her passion of being a professional speaker in her “spare time” so keeps busy with various MC-ing gigs as well as sharing her passion on Customer Service She shares a great family with her husband Leonard and 4 girls. She dances, is an avid Toastmaster and is studying graphology and HR Management. She loves gym and swimming!
Currently living in Australia with Leonard, Amy & Jennifer.
Bill Harrop’s “Original” Balloon Safaris Pilots
Operations Manager (Started again in 2019)
Daleen initially joined the Bill Harrop’s team in 2007, after a short sabbatical we were delighted to re-welcome her in 2019!
Hands on, a wealth of experience and a knack for simply getting things done, Daleen takes “Operations Manager” to a whole new level!
From working closely with our pilots, crew and Civil Aviation Authority, Daleen ensures that all the I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed!
Not only does she keep things turning in the background she is front and centre warmly welcoming guests on the morning of their flight and ensuring that the morning runs with ease.
As one of the youngest qualified Prue Leith chefs in South Africa at the time, Daleens input, guidance and leadership in our catering department is priceless! it is no surprise that our guests consistently comment on the amazing spread, the warm hospitality and endless smiles of Daleen and her team.
Financial Manager (Started in 2019)
Gretha Lawrence is the lady who makes sure everything literally, adds up!
She has always had a love for numbers and one will often find her tapping away at the keys to make sure the wheels keep turning! When she is not delving into figures she enjoys spending time with her children and her 4 beautiful grandchildren. Her creative side takes her to crafting, upholstery and reading.
Her favourite international destination holiday was and still is Mauritius!
Gretha’s aspiration is, when the time finally comes, to retire peacefully with her health in tact!
Senior Balloon Crewman – Started September 1993
After leaving school Eric ‘s first job was selling and auctioning motor cars in Zimbabwe, and he did his fair share of casual work before his quest for a “proper job” brought him to our gate.
This man’s honest big smile, strong character and application of his great determination to progress has continually delivered well deserved results. Maybe the motivation to learn came from his mother, a teacher? But because of the great example he continually upheld, he was selected as one of two people from our middle management team to travel to Florida USA to study and be awarded the renowned Walt Disney Customer Service Course Diploma. He is also training to be a balloon pilot. Eric ‘s travels have taken him to the USA, Botswana, Mozambique, Lesotho, and of course Zimbabwe. When he is not following his passion for ballooning he relaxes with books, or goes to the movies. To keep fit and strong he gyms nearly every day, and plays Soccer with friends. Orlando Pirates is his favourite local team, and on the international front he supports Barcelona and Manchester United.
Junior Chef de Partie – Started September 2010
After graduating from high school she worked as a doctor’s receptionist and,
during that time, met and married George and started their family of 4 children.
Now her very realistic and achievable goal is to study to become a great cook. In her spare time she buys, fixes-up and sells clothes; a lucrative hobby. For relaxation Merjury reads Christian novels and enjoys watching E-TV.
Waiter and Junior Chef de Partie – Started September 2010
George is one of those men who learns fast and will do well for himself.
Show George how to do something and it will be done
George is one of those men who learns fast and will do well for himself. Show George how to do something and it will be done, always on time, always done right. Bright and perky, he is always complimented by guests for his top class service and attention to detail.
Maintenance supervisor and Crew Leader – Started January 2007
Daniel was initially employed on a temporary basis, his eager, friendly and “willing to please” attitude secured him a full time position in January 2007.
Daniel was initially employed on a temporary basis, his eager, friendly and “willing to please” attitude secured him a full time position in January 2007. Working closely with our General Manager, Dave Atherstone, Daniel has become the “go to guy” – never a moan or complaint about anything! All of his colleagues refer to him as “the guy who will help anyone with anything at any time – a great guy!”