August 31st, by Izzy.

It had been a while since I spent the night at the Ellie Hide, and I hadn’t had a chance to sleep there since we have improved the hide itself, to incorporate 2 platforms, a viewing platform, and the higher level one reserved for the sleeping quarter!

The Ellie Hide Sleep Out has been in high demand this season, and so it should. It such a different experience, romantic, not too adventurous, with just enough of a thrill to put you out of your comfort zone. The idea is to spend a night under a mosquito net, on a high platform set in a tree, overlooking the Luangwa River. In the day time, it is our photographic  Ellie Hide, which numerous guests have enjoyed, watching elephants come to the river to bath, drink and eventually (not always!) cross the river. Of course, at night, elephants don’t tend to cross the river, or even come to drink. Spending the night here is about listening to the African night, watching the stars (or the full moon in my case), and wondering what else is roaming around, at the base of the hide.

That night I went, it was full moon. There are pros and cons about experiencing the Ellie Hide Sleep Out on a full moon night. The really neat thing is that the moon lights the river, and immediate surroundings, so you have a sense of where you are. It is quite different on a very dark night where you lose complete bearings with where the river is, or even the edge of the platform.  The cons of course is the lack of stars, but I was really happy with just staring at the moon for a while, listening to the hippos and owls. I sat on the bench of the viewing platform for a while, but was too afraid to fall asleep there, which may not be the best option. Better to be settling on the very comfortable bed, inside the mosquito net!

I fell asleep fairly quickly. The temperature was perfect, not too windy, but airy enough on this already warm night. I loved the feeling of simply sleeping “out there” feeling raw and vulnerable, but knowing I was totally safe. The night was quiet, I think. That is the trick, the bed is so comfortable, that sometimes even nearby roaring lions or calling leopards go unnoticed!

I woke up a bit before dawn, as usual for our camp routine. But today I didn’t have to “get up”, I could stay lying in bed and enjoy the sunrise. It was gorgeous! And of course, it is right there, no need to get out of bed, just raise your head and look over the tree line!

Then there was a lot of commotion in the bush behind the platform. Baboons and impalas were going wild, calling alarm calls, typical of a leopard situation.  I was certain one of our spotty cat would all of a sudden appear on the path, but it remained elusive, although it could not have been far. Then I heard trumpeting, and I knew the elephants were approaching. This was soon confirmed by the sound of cracking branches. A total of 8 elephants eventually appeared, just under the platform. I recognized “straight tusk” one big mama, with one long tusk as straight as a butcher’s knife.

The ellies made their way down to the river, and crossed, to my utter excitement! What a morning! I think I was very privileged to experience this crossing so early in the morning, but this is what it is all about, you simply never know what will happen next.

For complete information, read about our camp out options here.  They must be booked in advance and come with an extra fee.


PS: for complete peace of mind, we do have our armed scout stationed in a hut nearby, through the night.

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