Surprise Bush Dinner (English)

The term ‘surprise bush dinner’ has just taken on a new meaning, especially as regards the regional interpretation at Zibalianja! Firstly, the emphasis is decidedly on surprise, secondly it does not refer only to the astonished faces of the clients when they first arrive on the scene to behold the open-air dining room!

The Land Rover comes a stop on Knob Hill, a slight rise overlooking Zibadianja Lagoon, topped by little termite mound. Sunset drinks, sociable dinner.  Orchestral background supplied by bellfrogs, hippos and distant zebra.  A guest – who fancies himself something of an operatic tenor, serenades the full moon.  The listeners can barely contain their mirth at the sight of four baby-hippo ears focusing fixedly on this very strange, new sound.

While all the bush-savvy guests relaxed and admired the reflection of the full moon on the lagoon, I was called upon to use my best powers of persuasion on the one and only bush novice who stood trembling, and very ill at ease.  With honeyed voice I educated her as to the habits of hippos.  If in any way unhappy, they seek the safety of deep water – sufficiently far from us.   Right now, they were preparing to leave the lagoon, naturally with nought on their mind but the quest of food – luscious grass, clearly and reassuringly totally absent from our barren termite mound.

Just as I had lulled her into actually sitting down on the ground just below the highest point of the mound, the two hippos who had been the subject of my lecture veered and decided to join us at an unfriendly gallop.

You can’t believe the shambles!  I grabbed my paralized protegé and dragged her behind the termite mound, the waiter dived under the table (a fact he hotly denied afterwards), others scrambled and slid around the termite mound, the guide, heroically stood his ground while chucking half a cup of coffee at two fully-grown hippos, yelling ‘shoo’ ‘shoo’ at the top of his voice in a language obviously familiar to the species, for they turned just short of the fire and went crashing back into the lagoon!!!!

 Credit Brigitte Cross