I had never been on a hot air balloon prior to February 2015 and have since floated over the Napa Valley and the Temples of Bagan and both were incredible experiences. Softly gliding over the Maasai Mara on a hot air balloon was an experience of comparable proportions, one that captured my imagination and made me feel like Indiana Jones.

But nothing explains the emotions and the shivers that go down your spine as you take off and effortlessly fly over the plains of Africa’s most exciting reserve. I’ll try share those emotions with you through the collection of photos from my hot air balloon experience over the Maasai Mara.

Inflating the hot air balloon

"Inflating the hot air balloon"

Inflating the hot air balloon

Arriving before dawn, when it was still pitch dark and we could barely see around us, the balloons started to be filled with hot air and rose pretty quickly above the ground. Once they were up, we had to quickly jump into the baskets. This all needs to be done before sunrise by the way.

The first rays of sun on the horizon

"Hot air balloon over the Masai Mara"

Hot air balloon over the Maasai Mara

As the first rays of sunlight start to wake up in the horizon, all the balloons must be in the sky. This creates a perfect frame of balloons at different heights, depending on where the wind currents are and the speed at which the pilots want them to go.

Hot air balloon selfie

"Hot air balloon over the Masai Mara"

Hot air balloon over the Maasai Mara

Perhaps the most impressive of the photos is this selfie taken by our pilot via his GoPro which was attached to two strings and a bar and hanging from the bottom of the balloon, where it meets the basket. It was a great angle and photo. But wait till you check out for the video!

The sun is almost out

"Sunrise behind a hot air balloon over the Masai Mara"

Sunrise behind a hot air balloon over the Maasai Mara

The total time spent in the air is around an hour and the sun quickly makes its way up from the horizon. When it does, the colours and the light are simply incredible, bringing out the perfect fiery hues.

Hot air balloon baskets

"Hot air balloon against sunrise at Masai Mara"

Hot air balloon against the sunrise at Maasai Mara

I managed to capture the detail of this basket from another group in a rather pristine clarity against the rising sun. The GoPro can also be seen hanging from the bottom right. The mesmerised facial expressions of the explorers, attached to their binoculars and cameras, were just the same as me.

Descending over a tower

"Giraffes running away from hot air balloon at the Masai Mara"

Giraffes running away from hot air balloon at the Maasai Mara

As the wind pushed us through the plains, our pilot had to control the speed through our altitude and the temperature of the running air in the sky. We had a maximum limit, we could not go over the river because there was no crossing for our pick up cars. As we approached our landing, a tower, well actually a group of giraffes, was frightened by the few cars and hot air balloons coming down and started running, creating this majestic image. The cars that dropped us at take off point drove through the park to the landing breakfast spot and waited for our arrival.

Following the leader

"Hot air balloon over Masai Mara"

Hot air balloon over Maasai Mara

Just like us, the rest of the hot air balloons started to arrive in groups at our landing point in the Maasai Mara to facilitate the descent. The cars, driving behind, raised a dust storm that provided the perfect canvas to the sunlight.

What goes on behind the scenes at a hot air balloon safari

"Behind the scenes on a hot air balloon over the Masai Mara"

Behind the scenes on a hot air balloon over the Maasai Mara

I was completely taken in by the landscapes, the views and the warmth of the light. The sun was a big ball of fire. Coming up from the darkest hour, just after a meteorite shower that awarded us a few shooting stars, I climbed into the basket and spent one hour simply wrapped up by the magic of the moment. I forgot that Edwin was there too, I barely heard our pilot, that’s the reason why I am facing away in all the photos he took. I was just frozen by the pure beauty of it all.

Maasai Mara wildlife from a hot air balloon safari

"Shadows of wildlife from a hot air balloon safari" Hot air balloon over the Maasai Mara

Shadows of wildlife from a hot air balloon safari

Flat shadows of passing wildlife were created as we descended from the skies. Surprisingly, the animals did not seem to care or to be too scared of the balloons and seemed to mind their own business.


  • Oh my goodness, Mar! What an experience! Between the warm morning light or the animals below, I wouldn’t have been able to take my fingers off my camera. I love hot air balloon rides because they’re so peaceful, so I’m totally adding this to my Africa musts!

    • Good thing there was time to do both- get some photos and just quietly take it all in. Felt like an eternity up there, in the most incredible way, hope you get to do this in Africa!

  • Christina Pfeiffer

    A hot air balloon flight over the Maasai Mara is one of my favourite bucket list experiences. I’ve done it twice and was in awe of the views and the feeling of floating above the landscape. Did you do a bush breakfast after?

  • Jennifer Dombrowski

    We were married in a hot air balloon and have also been ballooning over Napa, Bagan plus Marrakech. We’re a bit obsessed with ballooning where ever we can, but it always brings back such wonderful memories.

  • Dame Tripper

    I imagine it’s a very different experience being a hot air balloon in Africa instead of California and scaring a bunch of giraffes on your decent haha.. What a great way to capture photos!

  • Chrysoula Manika

    I hven’t been on ahot air balloon and it;s so high on my bucket list. The funny thing is that I have too visited Masai Mara Park when I was young with my mum and she decided against the hot air balloon rides available.

  • Maddy Morgan

    I have never been on a hot air balloon but I’ve wanted to for ages. I imagine I’ll be exactly the same as you, frozen by the beauty. I can completely understand how you spent the first hour absorbed in the moment. I cannot wait to do this!

  • I would love to go on a hot air balloon, it seems like a magical experience. Especially if you fly during sunrise or sunset. Though, I think any time during the day would be great if you’re flying over the Masai Mara. I love the picture from above of the wildlife!

  • carlingdoodling

    OMG that sunrise photo. Loved the orange hue! I wish I could go soon!

  • Megan Claire

    So amazing Mar! This has to be one of the top places in the world to take a hot air balloon ride – there’s nothing more amazing than seeing the sun rise over the African plains, but to witness the landscape from a hot air balloon – amazing!!!

  • What a wonderful photo opportunity from the balloon! All have been neatly framed.
    I think timing is important to plan such rides.

  • Melody Pittman

    I’ve always dreamed about doing the balloons in New Mexico and places but I never even considered gong across the plains and seeing all the animals below me. Wow, that is really amazing. I loved your pictures, too, and they were spot on.

  • Buddy The Traveling Monkey

    I went on a hot air balloon ride in Central Florida and it was a really incredible experience. It’s so peaceful and quiet when you’re up there! I didn’t get to see any exotic animals the way you did though lol!

  • This activity ive been waiting to tick off my bucket list . Maybe one day. Its a great opportunity for photography.

  • Carol

    Never been on a hot-air balloon but would love to. Thanks for the tips, especially for the selfie shot!!!

  • This is love!!! I did this in the Wadi Rum in Jordan and it was spectacular! I bet the Masai Mara sunrise is even more fantastic!

You may also Like:

100 Trips of a Lifetime
Recommended reads