Africa expert Eleanor recommends adding a balloon trip over the Masai Mara to you bucket list - you'll see the Great Rift Valley and game galore from the air.

Taking flight

Things start pretty badly on a balloon trip over the Masai Mara. It's very early, very chilly and very before breakfast, but things start improving fast. First there's the adventurous arrival at the take-off point, which involves crossing the Mara river by raft, followed by take off into (hopefully) clear skies as the sun begins to emerge over the savannah.

Brushing the tall grass

The prevailing wind usually pushes the balloon along the course of the river over pods of yawning hippos before heading out over the bush. The skilled pilots then take the balloons high for a stunning panoramic view of the Great Rift Valley before dropping so low that the bottom of the basket is brushing the tops of the tall grass.

Aerial game viewing

The silence means that the game - and there's a lot of it around - often doesn't notice you until the last minute, and after a blissful hour in the air the hot air balloon ride lands with a bump somewhere deep in the bush. As if by magic, a beautifully prepared bush breakfast awaits under a nearby acacia tree, where Masai waiters serve champagne, delicious coffee and well-earned bacon and eggs before a game drive back to the lodge. Proper once in a lifetime stuff.

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Part of our new series 'Around the World in 80 Senses', celebrating our favourite things from our extensive travels. As with any self-respecting list, there's absolutely no scientific basis to the choices we've made. It's all shamelessly subjective, and we'll be listing this year's 80 Senses (in no particular order) between now and Christmas, so keep an eye out for new entries here on the blog and on our Twitter and Facebook pages.