If there’s one thing that will always hold true for me, it’s that I am not a morning person. Waking up is an arduous task for me, even on the best of days. When I told my friends that I would be getting up before dawn while on safari, they all laughed and told me there was no way that would happen. Surprisingly, the early mornings ended up being my favorite time of day. Days on safari have this pleasing rhythm. You wake up just as a deep blue glow is softening the horizon. After a few yoga stretches I would head down to the main lodge for a light breakfast of fresh fruit, yogurt and a cup of coffee (or maybe two or three – I’m only human). Just as the sky was fading to a pale blue, we would head out for our morning game drive, thermos. That soft light was what made those early mornings so worth it. It has a luminous quality that fills the whole mopane forest with a golden warmth. It softens the harsh edges of the arid landscape, making it feel enchanted, otherworldly.
The animals are just emerging from their slumbers, carefully picking their way through the tender new leaves and grass shoots. Fresh tracks from the night’s activities reveal the hidden dramas that unfold under the veil of darkness. Like reading a morning newspaper, the guides will study the crisp prints and unbroken trails, telling you the story of who has come and gone in the night. Even though they may be long gone, it’s always thrilling when they point out the telltale marks of a leopard. “She may still be nearby,” they’ll say. “We’ll just have to wait and see what magic the day holds for us.”