Back at Ivory Lodge, we are greeted with the news that dinner will be served tonight on the open deck underneath the old spreading Mahogany Tree. We have just enough time to enjoy a large bubble bath overlooking the night river or an open-air shower under the stars. Oh, difficult decisions!
Tables are set a-deux with white linen and silver and glassware that sparkles in flickering candlelight. Our butler takes us through the delectable menu and makes sure our glasses are kept filled with our beverage of choice, an excellent South African wine. Courses arrive promptly and both eyes and tummies are soon well satisfied! While we enjoy quiet conversation over the delicious meal in this supremely civilized manner, we are reminded rather suddenly how very deep in the African bush we are. A hyena takes a chance and slinks from the dark around us into the edge of the light. He is drawn by the smells of dinner. Although branded as a cowardly beast and looks pitiful with his ungainly gait, they are opportunistic and immensely strong. Fortunately the staff, too, has spotted him and he is quickly chased off leaving only his eerie cackle-like laugh behind. As coffee and dessert arrives, we are serenaded by a group of local women; many of them part of the housekeeping staff. They sing melodic happy songs and long involved story songs in delightful a’capella and provide a sweet and gentle finish to our safari dinner.
It is our wedding anniversary and we are escorted back to our private suite to be greeted by dozens of tiny candles flickering in the soft night breeze all over our bedroom. The white bed cover is sprinkled with bright bougainvillea and creamy fragrant frangipani petals and a personalized “HAPPY ANNIVERSARY” message is spelled out in little green twigs. In the corner a small table and chairs is set up with a bottle of chilled champagne sitting in the ice-bucket alongside elegant flutes and yet more candles.
Outside the sky is black dark and scattered with a million diamonds – so close it feels as if you can reach up and gather them. The night sounds are loud and exotic and memories of the sly hyena and implacable topaz stare of the lion, add just a taste of thrill as we toast each other in this champagne gift. The day is done and overflows with a myriad experiences that have filled our every sense – but another day in the wild, beckons to us, tomorrow, just beyond the sunrise.