Ever since I can remember, I have been a night owl.
I’d choose staying up until 6am instead of waking up at 6am any day of the week, however, some travel experiences mandate a painfully early wake up call. Not all such experiences are worth the missed hours of precious slumber, but some are so undeniably wonderful that they will always be worth waking up at the ass crack of dawn for – here’s nine of them!
Hot Air Ballooning over the Valley of the Kings
When I travelled to Egypt, I expected the Pyramids of Giza to be the highlight, however, it ended up being a hot air balloon ride over the Valley of the Kings that was extra special.
Getting up for this trip meant a 3am alarm (kill me, seriously, kill me) and though I was the grumpiest lady on the planet when that alarm went off, any negative energy I had coursing through me was immediately replaced with joy and awe when I saw the magical the landscapes of Luxor and beyond from a hot air balloon basket.
Exploring the sand dunes of Sossusvlei
Unlike some of the other experiences on this list, getting up early isn’t an absolute requirement for visiting Sossusvlei, but it is certainly advisable due to the extreme heat of the region.
The sand goes from icy cold to burn-inducing within a matter of a few hours, making it highly advisable to arrive just after dawn. The 5am wake up call is undeniably brutal, especially as the desert gets so cold overnight, but you’ll be so glad you did it when the incredible sand dunes of Sossusvlei stretch out before you.
Sleeping in an ice grave in Antarctica
So, this experience doesn’t require you to wake up early, it’s more of an inevitable result!
The night I camped out in Antarctica inside an ice grave was one of the most memorable experiences of my entire Antarctic voyage, and it’s something I’d highly recommend. However, due to the near constant sunlight that comes with an Antarctic summer and the need for campers to reboard their vessel in time for breakfast, it means that an early wake up call is just unavoidable.
After digging our graves and setting up our sleeping bags for the night, I last looked at the time at around 10.30pm and woke up at around 5am. This wake up call wasn’t actually too difficult to cope with, especially as I was one of the people who’d managed to get more than just a couple of hours of slumber.
The appearance of seals just a few metres away also helped diminish any early morning grumbles!
Beating the crowds at Arashiyama bamboo forest
You can visit Arashiyama forest at any time in the day, but if you want half a chance of taking some gorgeous photos of this bamboo without throngs of tourists milling about, then you really do need to be the early bird to get that worm.
We got to Arashiyama at about 8am and had it pretty much to ourselves for a good half hour, providing us with many amazing photo ops and the opportunity to appreciate the majesty of the place without any distractions.
Seeing wildlife at its most active on an African safari
It pretty much goes without saying – it gets hot in Africa!
As a result, the wildlife that call much of Africa home prefer to spend the hottest parts of the day snoozing rather than being active. As a result, the best time to view wildlife is in the morning and evening, but in my experiences, the mornings are always infinitely better.
Waking up at 5am is always brutal, but the roars of lions, the calls of monkeys and the trumpeting of elephants certainly makes it easier.
Exploring the most beautiful pagoda in Myanmar, totally alone
After seeing pictures of this white pagoda in Mandalay, I knew that I absolutely had to visit it one day.
So, when I made plans to return to Myanmar, it was high on the list of ‘must-sees’. The night before we planned to visit, we ventured out to U-bein bridge to watch the sunset and holy moly, such throngs of tourists I hadn’t seen anywhere else in Myanmar! I was truly left wondering where all these people had suddenly appeared from.
So, that night we decided that we would get up as early as possible to ensure that we wouldn’t have such a stressful experience at such a beautiful place.
As it turned out, we had it completely to ourselves for hours and hours – it was so special, and so worth the bleary eyes we started the morning with.
Watching the sun start to rise over enormous icebergs
When people ask me what my favourite places in the world are, Greenland is always right up there at the top. From the moment I saw my first iceberg, Greenland truly stole my heart; and from the first morning that I watched the sun come up and illuminate the enormous ‘bergs in the icefjord before me, I knew that my love for Greenland would be eternal, early mornings and all.
Eating breakfast with giraffes
If eating your breakfast with a journey of Rothschild giraffes won’t get you out of bed in the morning, then I honestly don’t know what will!
These graceful giants rise with the sun and have an appetite from the moment they awaken, so if you want to share a bucket list breakfast with them, you’ll need to be prepared to do the same.
Having the Lost City of Petra all to yourself
Having the incredible facades of Petra all to yourself might seem like a pipe dream, but if you are prepared to set a 4.50am alarm, it really isn’t.
My early rise meant that I was the first person that day to arrive at the awe-inspiring Treasury, and I had it all to myself for at least (if not more) twenty minutes. It was quiet, peaceful and magnificent all at once.
Much like the 8 other experiences on this list, I’ll never forget it.