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Redefining the Luxury Safari Lodge

Shompole dining

Sarah Gold

David’s dressed traditionally—draped in a bright-red shuka, with beaded cuffs encircling his slender wrists—and speaks in elegantly enunciated English. Pausing for a moment from his job of setting the long communal table, he gestures at the chirping swallows that dart above our heads among the ceiling beams.

“Birds eat mosquitoes, too. Do you like birds?” he asks. He leads me to the edge of the dining terrace and spends the next several minutes pointing out some of the species fluttering in the nearby treetops: a needle-nosed, iridescent green malachite sunbird; a speckled mousebird with a tail as long as my forearm; a band of electric-yellow masked weavers—which, David says, knit their delicate, straw-globe nests on the frailest tree branches, so predators won’t be able to reach them.

Heading back to his plates and silverware, David glances at me over one blade-thin shoulder. “At night there is a genet cat that sometimes comes to the rooms,” he says. “He may walk right past your bed. And vervet monkeys—they like to steal soap from the bathroom.”

My eyes widen, and a bemused expression crosses his face.

“Yes, we are very close to the animals here,” he says. “Isn’t that why you have come?”

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