A burnt orange glow gradually giving way to hazy, purple skies.
And then suddenly, you have what feels like all of Africa laid out before your eyes.
Taking a hot air balloon over the Masai Mara to watching the sunrise is definitely one of the most magical things we've ever experienced. The sheer expanse of the Mara is breathtaking; plains so vast you could never comprehend it all on four wheels. Our hot air balloon glided seamlessly over the endless savannah, allowing us to watch the animals from the air. Everywhere we looked there were zebras or herds of wildebeest, buffalo or giraffes grazing peacefully on the grass.
As we were in Kenya for our honeymoon, we knew we wanted to do something truly memorable and a hot air balloon ride certainly fitted the bill.
The day of the balloon ride is an early start, we were picked up by a guide at 4.45am; armed guards from our camp escorted us to the jeep where only minutes ago a pride of lions had passed, on the hunt for breakfast. It was completely dark and cooler than I expected as I was used to the warm Kenyan sun, which had yet to rise.
We arrived at the take off site at around 5am and watched these huge balloons being filled with air.
As it was a windy day, we were advised by our Canadian pilot that we would need to climb into the basket whilst the balloon was on the ground, they would then fill it with hot air which would cause the balloon to stand and flip the basket the right way up. So all 16 of us clambered into the woven basket so that we were lying on our backs facing the dark sky.
Behind our heads we could hear and feel the hot air being pumped into the balloon, and before long we had to hold on tight and the balloon gradually made itself upright. And then we were off... it was so smooth I didn't even notice we had left the ground.
The flight lasts around one hour and the views are spectacular. All around you for 360 degrees, as far as the eye can see, are wide open plains. As we done this in migration season, there were literally millions of wildebeest spotted all over the savannah.
As we flew over an area called "Rhino Ridge", we were lucky enough to spot a white rhino from the air. Our pilot told us that when he started working in the Masai around 6 years ago there were 36 rhinos in the park but due to poaching, there were only 18 left. It is therefore incredibly rare to spot a white rhino, so we felt very lucky being able to see one of these magnificent creatures.
Although we could easily have stayed in the balloon for much longer; it was time to land so that we could enjoy our champagne breakfast served in the middle of the Masai Mara. Undoubtably, the coolest breakfast spot we've ever experienced!
Overall, the hot air balloon safari was one of the best things we've ever done and we loved every second of it. It was our first time on a hot air balloon, but it definitely won't be our last!
The 1 hour flight and champagne breakfast costs $450 USD per person, which is expensive, but for a once in a lifetime experience; it was totally worth it. We wanted the full safari experience and getting to see the Masai Mara from the air certainly gave us that.
It made it a honeymoon to remember.