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I'm about to bed down over there, on the riverbank, with just an 8ft cube of dark-green mosquito netting between me and the vicious, howling wilder-ness.

EXTRACT FROM THE SUNDAY TIMES TRAVEL SECTION - MAY 2011 BY VINCENT CRUMP

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Nightfall in the thick of the Tanzanian bush. I am having supper with Remtula, my safari guide, and discussing the flavour of human flesh. "We are salty and sweet together, Rem says. 'because of our diet. And our meat is so tender. That is why a man-eating lion will never stop killing, once it's had a taste...More quiche, vinny?"

All salari-goers get used to gallows humour. It adds a frisson of extra fun to the communal dinner parties at the lodge, before you snuggle into your deluxe villa to dream about tomorrow's game drive.

The difference tonight is that Rem is not joking, and I'm not at the lodge. I'm about to bed down over there, on the riverbank, with just an 8ft cube of dark-green mosquito netting between me and the vicious, howling wilder-ness. Hippo-shaped shadows are squabbling in the shadows, and not 30yd away reclines a crocodile the size of a Ford Focus. I can't see it clearly in the flicker of our campfire, but... yes...I think I can hear it licking its lips.

The really daft part is that the deluxe safari lodge is within walking distance of here, and it's Sand Rivers Selous, one of the cushiest in all Africa. I know this because I've just walked away from it - eight single-file miles across the purple plains of the Selous Game Reserve, keeping as close as humanly possible to Rem's rifle.

Bush hiking is becoming all the rage here in southern Tanzania, especially among travellers who've already ticked off a traditional 4WD safari. As one aficionado tells me: "A vehicle safari is kind of like watching a movie, whereas on foot you're bang in the middle of the action."

"A vehicle safari is kind of like watching a movie, whereas on foot you're bang in the middle of the action."

It's a good analogy, because the Selous is Africa on a cinematic scale. As big as two Krugers or four Serengetis, this is a place with 65,000 elephants, 7,000 leopards and 4,000 lions - not one of them, as yet, a man-eater. Sheer vastness is what makes the reserve so good for trekking: the wildlife is not too habituated to people, and still tends to scarper if you stray too close.

So, at 7am the next morning, Rem and I peel back some undergrowth and tiptoe out into the dawn-drenched valley beyond e lodge. We will be hiking for three days in all, our crack support team of chef, waiter and tent putter-upper morphing magically out of the bush each evening to welcome us to a brand-new fly camp, as though sprung from a genie's bottle. There is nothing for me to carry except water and a camera.

Almost immediately, we pause to watch our first live kill - an ant lion devouring a tiny beetle. Ant lions are fanged monsters about the size of a fingernail; they dig sandy death traps, then wait for breakfast to rumble in. Rem upends his binoculars so I can ogle its murderous pincers.

Soon there's a rumble ahead, then a big breeding herd of elephants, babies and all, lumbers straight towards us through the scrub. My heart scuds against my ribs, Rem tugs my sleeve and we sidestep smartly behind a sapling as they trumpet by, definitively trashing a small copse in their haste to put some cover between us.

After that, the morning dawdles on languidly, the thrum of insects and the pong of parched grass and hot dung intensifying as the sun climbs. We inspect the sleeping den of a spotted hyena, startle an occasional impala and mildly annoy a passing warthog.

We inspect the sleeping den of a spotted hyena, startle an occasional impala and mildly annoy a passing warthog.

For all this, arriving at our fly-camp feels almost as miraculous as anything so far - conjured by unseen hands on a spotless strip of sand beside Lake Malcube. As well as our strange sci-fi sleeping pods, we have a lunch table decked with crisp napery and wine-glasses; a canvas cubicle for hot showers; and another housing a wooden commode, which happens to offer a fabulous view of a malachite kingfisher preening itself on a stump.The kingfisher has a purple crest, a gold belly and a bloody dagger for a beak. I will never see a more beautiful bird, certainly not from a lavatory.

That afternoon, lounging on my day bed under the flowering jasmine bushes, I watch a parade of famous-name game slide out of the forest to drink. Elephants sluice themselves with trunkfuls of water. A lone buffalo hulls his horns. Hall a dozen giraffes telescope above the trees. Then they all line up along the lakeside, as if queuing for the Ark. In the foreground, crocs yawn and hippos wrestle in the water, looking rather camp in their trailing garlands of lurid-green lilies.

Ram and I take a short circular hike in the cool of the late afternoon, returning at sunset to find hippo shapes bulging from the water like sleeping policemen. It looks sensational, but, even before we get to discussing sweet and sour man-flesh pudding, something's nagging at me. It's the entry I read in Rem's guestbook, recounting an episode a few week before when a pride of lions moseyed into camp in the dead of night "That was unusual," he explains. "We always circle the camp with lanterns, and animals generally respect a territorial boundary. But these were curious somehow. I decided to get everyone on top of the support 4WD for a couple of hours."

I sleep fitfully, listening to the woo-woo of hyenas and watching shadow-puppet crocodiles shuffle across the wall of my cuboid quarters in the lamp-glow. Or did i dream that? I've never felt a stronger sense of being part of the food chain.

Next morning, we hike back into the bush and a million more marvels reveal themselves. I learn what poachers rub under their armpit before creeping up on prey; how to repair a flesh wound using soldier ants for stitches; and which kind of sap to smear on my arrow tips if I ever go hunting antelope. We almost trip over a civet snoozing under a tree, and watch a green-backed heron fishing with an orchid flower, casting it on the water as an angler would a fly.

"We quite often see lions on these hikes, but there's little danger. They know we are the top predator around HERE"

By day three, I feel quite confident as a temporary Tanzanian bushman. Even so, it feels a bit like madness when we stumble upon crisp new lion tracks in a sandy riverbed and divert our route to follow them.  "Don't worry,"Rem says. "We quite often see lions on these hikes, but there's little danger.

They know we are the top predator around here" And I think: "Speak for yourself, mate. I'm not? "

Vincent Crump
Sunday Times

Sunday Times, May 2011