I was ecstatic. I had just spent a full day in Namibia’s Etosha National Park, marveling over its abundant wildlife, including towers of giraffes, those beautiful, marvelous, gentle giants that I’ve been fascinated with since I was 10 years old. They have plenty of company in this park, sharing its 8,600 square miles with everything from ostriches to zebras. The park’s enormous size is seductive, leading you in different directions to explore the vast landscapes and revel in the experience of being up close to so many wild animals—but that could present a problem: The gates to the park close at a very specific time, down to the exact minute of the daily sunset, so 6:18 p.m. means 6:18 p.m., or else you’re locked in the park until sunrise.
With just a few minutes to spare, I exited the park and headed a few miles east to Mushara Bush Camp, my accommodations for two nights. I checked in at the main Bush Camp House, a large, open-air, thatched structure that has a true bush camp feel to it.
I proceeded down the undulating, lantern-lit, herringbone-pattern brick path, past an impressive termite mound, to my private furnished tent. Each of the 16 en-suite tents on the property is built from canvas, wood, and local limestone, surrounded by trees, shrubs, and the native bush, and fronted by a private veranda, where you can relax on a canvas folding chair and enjoy the tranquility of your surroundings. When the temperature starts to dip, or the rustling or howls of nocturnal creatures grow a bit too close for your level of comfort, retreat into your tent and start rolling down the canvas shades over the tough screens of the glassless windows and secure them with sturdy Velcro. Brushed cement floors and stone walls keep the tents cool, so much so that if you get chilly during the night, a heated water bottle is provided to keep you toasty.
After settling in, I made my way to dinner, which would be served al fresco this evening. Tables and chairs had been arranged around an open firepit that provided some warmth. Chefs were busy behind stone-walled grills, and tables were laden with a wide variety of tempting food for tonight’s feast. Mushara has its own garden and incorporates many of its home-grown fruits, herbs, and vegetables into its meals. And all of it is delectable: tomato soup with croutons; spinach salad with hard-boiled eggs, cucumbers, feta cheese, and tomatoes; grilled eland; potatoes and cauliflower; chicken kebobs; roasted kudu; mielie pap (a millet porridge, a traditional staple food of southern Africa); chocolate-berry-banana cake; lemon mousse; and apple cupcakes, all accompanied by a couple of glasses of red wine.
Breakfast the following morning was served in the main building, on the open-air veranda. I started my day with orange juice; a made-to-order omelet with cheese, ham, and tomatoes along with some toast; some salami and cheese; and yogurt with bananas and honey, fulling charging myself for another full day in Etosha before returning to Mushara.
The evening had cooled, so I skipped taking a plunge in the pool, preferring to warm up by the campfire outside the main building before heading to the veranda for another fantastic dinner, served on placemats and with animal-shaped napkin rings weaved from natural materials: spinach gnocchi with roasted tomato sauce, parmesan, and sun-dried tomatoes; pan-seared hake with cauliflower tarte tatin, green beans, and caper-anchovy lemon sauce; carrots wrapped in bacon; and spiced date malva pudding with soft nougat and nougat anglaise.
Lulled into a delightful postprandial sleepiness, I shifted over to a chair beside the circular fireplace, appreciating the intricate construction of the wood and thatched roof, and admiring the chandeliers, clusters of hand-woven upside-down baskets. It was a perfect way to ease into the night as I tried to recall all the animals I had seen over the past two days—not an easy task, but an utterly delightful one, performed in an unforgettable setting.
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