The conditioner is waiting to set in my hair as I wash under a marula tree in the middle of a South African winter when the first waterbuck walks by. Buck naked I stand with instant hot water and bottles of luxury hair products supplied by my Simbavati safari lodge in a silver dish mounted to the wall of my outdoor shower. I now know it's a waterbuck after this morning's game drive: he (with the big horns) is also known as a toilet-seat antelope for the tell-tale white ring circling his rump. Soon a baby appears, his bushy tail swinging happily as he trots after mom. Then there are three, then five more, crossing the dried yellow grass upon which my tent sits. Inside this canvas "hotel" room my sheets are ironed and there's an enormous bathtub with stacks of fresh white towels and a bottle of Olive and Honey linen spray. Are you kidding me? This was supposed to be the budget safari but there's nothing low-rent about it at all, especially not the wildlife grazing in the dry river bed beyond my wooden deck with its two leather camp chairs and mini bar of delicious, cheap white wines.
Mason bathed in said soaking tub last night, the foam bubbles rising nearly to his neck. Though he pronounced the body wash flavor of olive and honey "nasty," he came out smelling like something I'd want to eat on sourdough, and he told me that he, in fact, felt "really good." We're one day into our nearly two-week safari with 20 friends from San Miguel and beyond. The reaction when we arrived last night, 11 hours along a panoramic but rather tiring ride from Johannesburg, was utter amazement. A fire was waiting in the pit in the center of the deck overlooking the river bed; the table was set with linens and candles, silverware and fancy glasses. Hot towels and mango drinks in flutes were handed to us when we walked in. The kids got bamboo sticks with marshmallows to roast. When the two hippos started walking along the tall grass off the dining deck it was like everything we ever wanted was coming true.