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After a brief sleep, we stumbled out of our quarters before sunrise and looked around to see where we had landed in the dark of night.  A family of vervet monkeys led the way to the dining room where we gulped down a cup of Gorongosa coffee before taking off for our first morning bird and game drive.

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Each cabana holds a duplex with shared covered porch

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Vervet monkeys are like a pack of pre-pubescent boys. Ya gotta keep your eye on them or they’ll eat you out of house and home.

After several hours of intense birding and antelope viewing, we were treated to a safari-style tailgate for a coffee break.

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Test, our skilled driver, park ranger, and guide is also a marvelous barista.

Each day we were treated to a sunrise drive, then a late brunch back at the lodge, and a few hours of free time for lunch (for those with enough appetite) or a swim, or walk around the grounds in search of birds. By mid-afternoon it was off again for a sundowner, in search of birds (of course) and mammals.

The highlight of the sundowners were G&Ts served with appetizers, prepared again by our guides at a magical spot somewhere within the 4,000 square kilometers of the park with a view of the setting sun and a show of birds and sometimes mammals, as well.

Our sundowners were held at a variety of locations, each with merits of its own. The Lion House was used for only two years after it was built in 1940. Designed as a luxury hunter’s retreat, it was ill-placed within the Park’s natural floodplain, which rendered it useless from January through March. After the civil war, the lion population was completely decimated. In 2007, lions were seen lazing atop the flat concrete roof  for the first time since the war. Just beyond the Lion House, gazing across the floodplain, we saw parallel waves of animals like rows of  different vegetation from small to large. Closest were the warthogs, then the nyala and impala antelope, then the larger waterbucks filled out the distance just below the setting sun. And of course, bird flyovers as they headed for their nightly roosting places in the nearby trees.

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Another night we explored the Hippo House, another failed 1940s structure. After Cyclone Idai, water came to the very top of the staircase of this building. And yes, we did see hippos in the water.

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Another evening found us at a lagoon rich with birds.

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After the sun went down, we returned to the lodge in the dark, a spotlight seeking nocturnal animals like spotted genets, leopard, and hyaena, and of course owls.