An Ensuite Safari

There are pivotal moments in one’s life when a decision is made and the consequences suffered. Many times our choices lead us in a new direction, guide us down a different path, and then we hope and prey that our hard-earned wisdom does not fail us.

I came to a crossroad this past weekend when asked if I wanted an ensuite bathroom at the Mvuu Lodge campsite in Liwonde National Park–Malawi’s largest and most important, renowned for its large herds of wild elephants. I debated for a long time, not wanting to spend the money, but I was tempted by the thought of my own private bathroom after weeks of sharing with an entire family. Even though I knew it was a self-centered, needless luxury I decided to splurge on my weekend safari.


Mvuu Lodge entrance

Entrance to Mvuu Lodge


I didn’t need to wait years, or even weeks, to see the wisdom of my choice. After settling in at the lodge, I spent ample time admiring the stone and ocher-colored bathroom, with its natural wooden fixtures and cool concrete floor. I reveled in the unique craftsmanship, taking pictures to show friends. Little did I know then that I’d spend my entire trip in this majestic setting.

Within hours of eating dinner in the lodge’s attractive, yet dimly lit thatched hut, I got deathly ill. It was the kind of food poisoning that leaves you unable to move, to even lift your head or open your eyes. Having spent half my life in third world countries the sensation was familiar, the self- diagnoses immediate.


village water pump

Village water pump


The park’s animals took note of my confinement and eagerly agreed to provide me with an ensuite safari. By the light of the moon a giant hippo walked up from the nearby river, searching for his dinner within my view. He was followed by a group of warthogs, with intimidating tusks, who seemed content to mow the law with their exceptionally sharp teeth, snorting and munching for hours.



Monitor Lizard peeking out from the grass.

Loud thumps on the rooftop, in chorus with rattling branches of nearby trees, awoke me the next morning. A troop of small Vervet monkeys had come to play. Running, jumping and flying from limb to limb, they provided endless entertainment through the screened walls, which served as windows, while I was still tucked away in bed.


baboons in the bush

Baboons in the bush


Two days later I emerged from my cool, comforting surroundings for the morning boat safari. Impalas grazed on the shore, then gracefully flitted away, light on their feet. Crocodiles sat motionless, jaws wide open, waiting for unsuspecting prey. Hippos filled the river’s shallow edges, cooling their bodies up to their eyes and ears.


hippos cooling off in water

Hippos cooling off in the water

The sound of rushing water, crashing into an unseen barrier, distracted me from the vivid, yet perfectly camouflaged colors of a monitor lizard. “They are coming,” our guide, George, said with a big smile. We waited, the sound getting louder, the waves stronger, but we could not figure out who or what was coming.

The nearby shore was fringed with tall, green, reed-like grass. Soon, standing white egrets came into focus, traveling without a flap of their wings. “Here come the hitchhikers,” George said. Within seconds a herd of elephants came into view, the egrets carried on their backs. They came right up to the shore, grabbing large chunks of grass with their trunks, before washing it carefully in water and shoving it into their mouths. The vibrating waves stopped when their footsteps were silenced.


elephant crossing

Elephants grazing by river


Not far away another herd of elephants came to the shore for breakfast, merging into a large family to cross the river. George said it was a lucky day since he saw the elephants cross only once a year. They walked in an organized single file, strategically placing the babies between the adults, nudging them across with their trunks.

The following day I returned to the wildlife center to hear they found a giant cobra next to the enclosure where I work (if you call hanging out with a baby baboon work) and I suddenly realized that my ensuite safari was well worth the hardship, and the cost.

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One Response to “An Ensuite Safari”

  1. Joyce Kuzneski Says:

    Hi Kris,

    Enjoyed your new website and reading about all your adventures. Congratulations on your new cookbook, looking forward to buying it and trying all the wonderful recipes I’m sure are in there.

    Take care and have a great day, Joyce

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