Snail soft and slow, the full moon rises above the sweep of the Mushika river bed, its light strong and true in the crisp winter air, setting the silica in the sand to glitter like so many brilliant gems, oneiric and clear. The linen is starched and the candles lit, places laid and the bar fully stocked. All that remains for us to do is await the low grumble of the vehicle bearing our guests – camouflaged by the reverberating call of lion in the distance. Someone adds another log to the fire, building the blaze and setting constellations of sparks adrift into the already splendidly shimmering sky.
Its bush dinner tonight for our guests at Anabezi: an experience of fine dining in traditional Zambian and braai (barbeque) fare: hot soup to start, followed by a sumptuous choice of grilled meat and vegetables, nshima, and relish. But first, drinks by the fire: a gin and tonic with wild basil, or perhaps a South African Cabernet Sauvignon – the choices abound! The warming scent and sizzle of the braai fills the night as our guests talk excitedly about their leopard sighting only moments ago – who knows? It may well decide a visit to dinner is in order, passing above us on the high cliff and silhouetted by moon and lantern light: an occasional shadow of spots, slipping away through the thicket. We all jump slightly at the crash of a branch falling nearby – the unmistakable pageantry of elephant idly browsing their own dinner further around the bend of the riverbed.
After dinner and demolishing a cheeseboard we report to the fire, sifting through the river sand to the camp chairs and a glass of Amarula, or a Brandy. The moon has quickly reached its zenith, and the whine of hyena can be heard, lifting across the Zambezi from Zimbabwe, punctuating the easy conversation of comfortably fed guests toasting themselves by the fire. Too soon it is time to go, piling into vehicles and smothering yawns with blanket clad shoulders, ready to slide into soft sheets made warm by hot water bottles, and into dreams filled with the thrill and magic of the bush.
Words: Tara Vivian-Neal