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Welcome to camp…

There’s something to be said for waking up in the morning to the smell of fresh elephant droppings and wondering whether it was the aroma that triggered your brain to wake you, or the fact that there was a rather large elephant bull defecating literally two metres away from you just moments earlier.

I’ve certainly had ruder awakenings, and bigger piles of pooh (metaphorically speaking), to deal with in my life! So while my olfactory system might be complaining, I most definitely am not.

It’s been an interesting night of sensory overload in the aural department too, with things kicking off shortly before midnight with a breeding herd of elephants moving slowly through camp breaking branches for munching purposes while farting with apparent gay abandon. The ellies (or should that be smellies?) were then blown off stage by a couple of hyaenas that decided to have a full-on battle of the howls, yowls and yips accompanied by the resident hippo pod on backing vocals with a stirring rendition of ‘blokes ROFL at particularly ribald joke’.

It beats the usual ‘trucks navigating the N4 in low gear at 3am’ sounds that regularly drag me from my slumber back home in Pretoria, so by the time the lions kicked in with their ‘I’m here, where are you?’ performance from across the Zambezi in Mana Pools National Park, I was well on my way back to la-la land.

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Close-quarter, pre-dawn Dumbo dumps aside, mornings in camp are somewhat frenetic, starting off before dawn as the guides prepare themselves for activities and the night watchmen wrap up their shift by conducting the early morning wake-up calls, which at Chongwe consist of a verbal ‘knock knock’ alongside guest tents at a pre-arranged time to rouse them from their dreams.

Although Chongwe’s tents now have wooden framed doors, in days of yore tent entry and exit was via the traditional floor to ceiling zip, meaning that there was nowhere on which to rap knuckles and produce a literal ‘knock knock’. The habit of annunciation has stuck in spite of progress in the tent design department!

It’s a convenient alarm clock, in spite of the fact that, because I am hosting dinner each night I get to sleep a little later. Well, theoretically anyway. I find it hard to stay in bed in the bush because once the sun’s up, it’s almost rude to ignore it and go back to sleep. Even if the dawn chorus of birds and hippos would let you.

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