What’s That Sound?


I remember going on many safari holidays as a child and I absolutely loved them, but the worst was always when the sun set and darkness filled the sky. My bed time was fairly early and I dreaded my parents switching off the lights because I was most certainly afraid of the dark.

I also lacked skill in the sleeping department so while my brother slept soundly through the night, I tossed and turned. Every sound I heard would have me on high alert in an instance. From the wind blowing and causing branches to scratch up against the window, to the weird sounds that animals would make, my mind would wonder - imagining all the things that were coming to get me under cover of the night skies. I was six years old, so you can only imagine the scary thoughts that filled my head! However, from my years of living in remote places in Africa, I can now identify most of the strange sounds that are heard in the evening. I am writing about this because I want to reassure all of you that are planning on going on safari in the near future that you have nothing to be worried about.

I also lacked skill in the sleeping department so while my brother slept soundly through the night, I tossed and turned. Every sound I heard would have me on high alert in an instance. From the wind blowing and causing branches to scratch up against the window, to the weird sounds that animals would make, imagining all the things that were coming to get me under cover of the night skies. I was six years old, so you can only imagine the scary thoughts that filled my head.

One of the hardest things to do is to fall asleep on your first night in the bush - it’s deathly quiet and loud at the same time. No more sounds of vehicles on the highway, or dogs barking, and most certainly no sirens piercing your ear drums. You’d be surprised as to how accustomed to all of these noises you’ve become. When you visit us at Anabezi or Amanzi, you’ll be staying in tents. It’s important to note here that these are not just any old tents - they are luxury tents. Let’s just say that if this is what “camping” is like, I’d camp for the rest of my life!

With canvas lined ‘walls’ there isn’t much stopping sound from travelling right into the bedroom. During the day the birds never stop tweeting, there’s a troop of baboons that forage in and around camp making bizarre noises, and the hippos that rest in the river grunt away too. Every new sound you hear will be followed by glancing in that direction and eventually figuring out what caught your attention. It becomes a lot trickier at night and you have to remind yourself not to jump to conclusions because this is when the nocturnal critters emerge from their hiding spots. I’m not going to list them all because I’d be typing into next week, but they definitely do make a whole lot more noise than the diurnal animals. The animals that are normally nervous around humans take advantage of the minimal movement at night and tend to come right into camp. One night I woke up in an absolute panic - I thought there was an earthquake. Obviously there wasn’t one and I decided to pop onto the deck to see what was going on, I found an elephant pushing up against a winter thorn tree, nudging it to try and dislodge a few pods to eat! Clever elephant if you ask me, but not when it’s 2AM! Another fairly common sound is one that comes from above. There’s a small racoon-like-cat creature with an exceptionally long tail that sleeps in the hollows of trees during the day. At night, they become ninjas as they bound from branch to branch and then on to the top of your tent chasing after insects of all kinds. Fear not, they are not big enough to come crashing down on top of you - I imagine it must be a bit like a trampoline for them!

It’s pretty wild here in the Lower Zambezi National Park and if you are a light sleeper, and the smallest of things make you nervous, then perhaps bring along a pair of ear plugs. However, you will get used to all the interesting sounds and you wouldn’t want to miss hearing a leopard sawing or the biggest cat in Africa, the lion, roaring in the distance. So just remember, when you hear something that you’re not too sure of, it’s probably Harry - the hungry hippo swaying side to side as he bumbles along looking for something to eat!

Written by: Tayla McCurdy

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