Happy hour with hippos, dinner with elephants, and more unforgettable safari experiences

safari experience
safari experience

One of the best parts of travelling is dining in spectacular new settings. The pastries seem a bit sweeter in a Paris café, just as the pasta tastes better among the rolling hills of Tuscany. The truth is, you won’t find a more memorable place to dine than on a safari experience in Africa.

On a recent trip to Zambia, at the Time + Tide Chinzombo and Time + Tide Mchenja luxury camps in the stunning South Luangwa National Park, I experienced daily out-of-this-world dining experiences, all between game drives to spot the Big Five.

From hors d’oeuvres along a hippo-filled river to a private moonlit dinner with baboon guests, these spectacular meals on safari are worth adding to your bucket list.

Pop-Up bar in the bush

When you are miles away from civilisation and you’re closer to lions than other humans, you might not expect to find carefully crafted cocktails. But that’s precisely what awaited us during an evening game drives. Our guide, Andrew, pulled over in the middle of the bush, stating it was time for an evening drink. But there was nothing in sight except warthogs, impalas, and crocodiles.

safari experiences
Image Credit: Jordi Lippe-McGraw

He instructed us to get out of the Jeep, and we watched as he transformed the hood into a pop-up bar. The driver pulled down a built-in table, laid a tablecloth on top, and grabbed bottles of wine and spirits from a cooler. Meanwhile, another camp staff member took our drink order and prepared a gin and tonic for me, a whisky neat for my husband, and a mango mocktail for my four-year-old son. We sipped on them as we watched hyenas stroll and past birds serenade us.

Hors D’oeuvres with hippos

I’ve been to lovely cocktail hours in historic mansions and glam New York City bars. But the evening setup along the hippo-filled Luangwa River might be the best one yet. The Time + Tide Chinzombo team surprised everyone staying at the camp with a full spread of hors d’oeuvres and pink, rose-infused gin cocktails that perfectly matched the sunset as hippos hummed and huddled in the water nearby.

One team member made a fire to pop fresh popcorn in a pot; fresh-baked sausage-stuffed bites and mini quiches lined the table with camp-grown ingredients. (A full bar was also available.) I couldn’t think of a better way to end the day before embarking on a night game drive that included two baby leopard sightings.

Private moonlit dinner with elephants

safari experience
Image Credit: Jordi Lippe-McGraw

My seventh wedding anniversary coincided with our stay at the cell phone-signal-free Time + Tide Mchenja and the full moon. So, as a romantic surprise, the team set up a private three-course dinner on the riverbank in front of our tent. A dedicated waiter started the meal by serving chilled champagne as the moonlight and a single candle acted as our lighting for the evening. After that, we sipped on soup, savoured grilled tilapia with rice and a savoury sauce, and finished with a cheesecake for dessert on the safari experience. But, if that wasn’t enough, three elephants decided to join as our dinner guests. Luckily, they didn’t want to ruin our romantic moment and opted to munch on the nearby trees instead.

Breakfast with giraffes

safari in Africa
Image Credit: Stevie Mann

In Zambia, I enjoyed a made-to-order omelette as warthogs dug in the grass and hippos made their morning groans. One of the most talked about safari breakfast experiences, however, is at Giraffe Manor in Kenya. The boutique hotel, set in a 1930s manor house, is a common stopover for guests headed out on safari in the Serengeti. But, besides the classic four-poster beds and vintage decor, guests love the four-legged residents. Here a herd of giraffes frequents the manor for breakfast, sticking their heads into the windows as you sip a cup of coffee. I’m not sure a morning meal can get wilder (and I live with a toddler … named Wilder).

A movie-worthy picnic

Image Credit; Angama Mara

At the Maasai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya, you can book a movie-worthy private fête champêtre. Luxury lodge Angama Mara offers an Out of Africa picnic for guests who want to relive the famous romantic flick starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. A checked blanket, pillows, canvas chairs, and a wicker picnic basket filled with pastries and coffee or sparkling wine and appetizers await on the actual kopje used in the movie poster. Be swept off your feet while taking in sweeping views.

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(Credit for the hero and featured image: Ngala safari lodges)

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