The South African tourism industry is mourning the loss of a ballooning legend.

Bill Harrop, the founder of Bill Harrop’s Original Balloon Safaris, has died of Covid-19 complications only five days after his wife, Mary’s death.

Tributes have been streaming in from all over the country with people remembering Bill Harrop’s sense of humour, his wit for life, his never-failing optimism and his famous post-flight porridge with a dollop of cream and a few drops of whiskey.

Harrop, who passed away on 4 July 2021 was actively involved in the South African tourism industry for more than forty years since 1981. His presence was the one thing that made a Bill Harrop’s balloon experience – hovering above the Magalies River Valley – so authentic.

He was the pilot, flight crew, tour guide and even cook on his popular balloon excursions which have seen many engagements, anniversaries and other special occasions. It was one of the longest registered tour operators in the country.

Harrop’s daughter, Sarah Bauling, took to social media at the weekend, saying: “We are wrecked knowing that this world has lost a man who gave so much, laughed so easily and lived every second to the fullest. Dad, you were and always will be remembered as an ‘intrepid aeronaut explorer’. Your enthusiasm for life was contagious and you created and left so many amazing memories for others.

Minister of Tourism Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane released a media statement on 5 July, saying: “He was a vibrant soul and played a significant role in the tourism industry over many years as a mentor and guide.

“He strove to provide excellent, safe and reliable service to both local and international travel enthusiasts looking for some real adventure. As we mourn this great icon, we will always be encouraged by his devotion and immense contribution to the sector and to the country in general.”

Both Bill and Mary’s lives will be celebrated on 10 July and the family says “anyone and everyone who has been touched by our beautiful warrior mom and/or our hero dad” can attend. The celebration will be held on Zoom at 10am (South Africa), 9am (UK) and 6om (Australia) time.

Those who wish to attend can email Sarah on who will send a link and the celebration programme. The event will also be streamed live on YouTube.

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