If you sit quietly at the turning of the light, just at the onset of dusk, while on safari in the African bush veld, you will discover that nocturnal life is heralded by the small creatures.
First to start the evening’s celebrations is the ceaseless hum of the cicadas. This symphony of sound is soon joined by the more tango-ish warble of a pod of crickets, perched along succulent grass stalks, and suspended in the orange-turning-blue light just above the cooling earth.
The utter quietness that a golden-tinged evening in the bush veld brings is not marred by any man-made sounds.The larger wildlife are either finding cover to rest at dusk or setting out on their nightly prowl.
The Unfurling of the the Moths
During this magic hour; it can become so quiet that you could almost – but not quite – hear the soft flutter of powdery moth wings as they slowly unfurl in the fast approaching night.
With 4 500 moth species in Africa – aptly dubbed collectively as Afromoths (short for Afrotropical); it is their mission to convert plant matter into nutrients, until they become consumed themselves, or fertilise the soil in the inexorable cycle of life.
When the moths finally launch into the darkened sky, then you become aware of Nature’s pendulum swing between day and night; one that heralds a passing snack for the last returning birds to their nests. While larger heron and crane fly in formation across the dying light, the smaller bird species are quick to fly low; dipping up and down off the ground, scouting and darting and quickly devouring the soft wings and plumb bodies that have emerged from their hidden haunts. Glint-eyed and nippy; the early bird may get the worm; but the evening bird devours the moth; so quickly, that only the flick of their tail let’s you know it has caught the choicest morsel.
Then as suddenly as it started, the cicada’s group chorus stops dead, announcing that the birds that hunt by day have now gone back home to nest.
Now even the day’s dust has settled flat, no longer kicked up by grazing, wandering hooves of the eland and impala, or the majestic kudu. This settling is soon overlaid by the soft hooting of the owl, only a dark silhouette witnessed against the tree’s outline against a dark blue velvet horizon.
Scuttle of a Genet or a Spring Hare?
The field mouse lifts its nose to scent the air; was that a scuttle of a Genet or the Spring Hare? For the night predators, all of the above making for a promising evening’s meal. Then in one languid powerful moment, the owl swoops down and collects its prey to be precisely dissected and swallowed. And then once again regurgitated as a dry lump of fur and small bones once the stomach has completed its final digestion.
The Sound of Organic Life in Motion
All life in Africa is organic, active, raw and sudden. Here, life and death happen in an instance, and just one hour of sitting still at sunset reveals this breath-taking transition.
Day predators behave differently to those of the nocturnal hunters and gatherers. Senses and instincts are differently honed. On a night safari drive you can just as easily mistake the reflecting eyes among the dark trees of that of a bush baby or a leopard protecting its fresh kill.
It is easy to forget how primeval life really is when you live in a man-made world. When an alarm clock starts your day towards a daily commute among traffic of different size engines which takes you into the hum of your office air-conditioner and a blare of computer monitors; it can be easy to disconnect from the razor blade edge of life and death. Our senses become attuned to monotone sounds with no lilt and call, no sound of living and no sound of dying, just a long blank repetitive white sound that lulls you into a walking sleep of dulled sound and sensation.
But transport yourself into the vast, lush, fragrant and alive African bushveld and you couldn’t be further away from your usual concrete jungle habituation. Now not just the sensations of sounds are there to bring you alive, but the very air itself shivers with vibration, no matter if you yourself sit still.
Wait a little, and before long your ears will hear masticating jaws; will know the difference sizes of the paw pads as they touch the earth with their print. Your sensitivities will soon pick up the various directions and calls of the night life as it comes awake and procreates and then goes to rest again as the world spins its day and night around the sun and prepares to rise again – on another new day of life and death in the African sunshine that daily fades into rose-hued dusk.
Hayward’s Safari Sanctuary headquarters are positioned inside a 2 400 hectare nature reserve adjacent to the Big 5 Dinokeng Wildlife Reserve ideal for city slickers from Johannesburg, Cape Town and of course international luxury travelers looking for private and bespoke access to Africa’s big game wildlife experience. For a personal outfitted safari expedition visit our camp locations guide here.