SIMBALOO, Longleat’s very own hot air balloon captured breath-taking views this morning as it took to the skies with other friends ahead of this weekend's Sky Safari balloon fiesta.

I set my alarm for 5.45am and headed to the park near Warminster to catch a ride in the eye-catching balloon, that has travelled the world and amazed international crowds.

The day was described as a perfect morning by the experts who worked in teams to get the balloons ready to fly.

Among the shapes on show throughout the weekend include Wes the Wolf, three penguins Puddles, Splash and Tall Steve and a newcomer to the Longleat tribe, a Koala, who carried out its first ever flight at the park.

Rich Penney from Ultra Magic, one of the companies behind the weird and wonderfully shaped flying machines, said: “We love coming to Longleat because you get such a good reception from everyone here. It’s a brilliant show, especially at night when we will all be in the balloons and lighting up in time with a music show.”

Mr Penney’s team transported the balloons over from Spain where they are made by a family business, that first began in 1978 and now creates around 500 balloons every year.

A fan blowing cold air is used to blow the balloons partially up and then hot air is blasted into the balloon while two people hold down the basket until the pilot is ready to set off.

As we drifted up into the skies the noise and busy atmosphere of the ground teams melted away. Before I knew it, we were high over the large house and able to see Wiltshire from a birds eye view. The silence, apart from the occasional blast of air, was incredible and there was even mist eerily gathered on certain parts of the countryside.

The clear views off in every direction made the early start completely worth it.

Back on the ground, plans for this year’s sky safari were well underway.

More than 200 balloons will be descending onto the park with shows beginning tonight.

“This year’s Sky Safari is going to be the biggest and best ever,” said Longleat’s Steve Mytton.

“As well as flying more balloons in mass ascents than ever before, to make this year’s event even more memorable, we’re also launching our own koala balloon and hosting lots of other beautiful and bizarre shaped inflatables.

“The highly popular night glows are returning on Friday and Saturday night with the balloons firing their burners in time to a musical soundtrack and we’re introducing a new feature called ‘Special Shape Sunday’ to showcase more than 20 of the most unusual balloons.”