That evening, we went on a night drive starting at 9pm. Nighttime on the bush is very different from the day. There are simply many animals that are nocturnal, rather than diurnal (new $5 word of the day). So the weather was clear enough that night, so we went out. I was a bit anxious about insects since we would be in darkness. So I battened down the hatches by wearing a scarf tight over me head, a fleece, and jeans to prevent insects from hitchhiking. I was ready.
In a night safari drive, the driver uses a spotlight on both sides of road since it is so dark. The only issue is that there were lots of bugs attracted to the light. There were more at this time of year due to the rains. Alas.
For this drive, we decided to hunt again for the leopard and hyenas since both are a bit more nocturnal. Almost off the bat, Uly found us a snake, one of two on the entire trip. It looked brown and small. It was hanging out near the meerkat den.
The most incredible thing was to see green and red eyes staring at us from the bush. There’s a piece of skin, called tapetum lucidum, that reflects light and produces the effect. It’s supposed to help animals see in the dark. Humans don’t have this surface. With these reflecting eyes, we saw a lot of antelope, just hanging out, resting under trees. So wonderfully eerie.
At one point, in a rocky area, we thought we found the leopard based on green eyes in the distance. As we got closer, we discovered that it was a bit too small to be a leopard. We think it was a jennet, a smaller cat. Still nifty!
We spent much of the evening looking for the leopard or hyenas. Sadly, we didn’t find either. But it was amazing to wander around in the darkness. At one point, Uly cut the engine, turned off the spotlight, so we could appreciate the darkness. We could so many stars above us! It was not 100% dark since there were so light haze from a neighboring farm in the distance but it was darker than I’ve experienced. I had an inkling of what it was like to be a person before electricity. This darkness was your daily life.
While we wandered in this darkened landscape, we did find an elephant carcass. It is huge. Quite delightfully unsettling at night. Funny enough, we never saw it during the day!
Most exciting, we ended up finding the lionesses on the main road, clearly out to find some food. They were sitting around but then they wandered away from us. These were the cranky lionesses that charge the vehicle. They didn’t feel the need, which was good. I think it would be scary to happen during the day; nighttime would be down right terrifying. It was amazing to see these creatures with their reflecting eyes near midnight. Later, we could hear them at camp roaring.
At one point, we nearly ran into an ostrich who bolted out in front of our vehicle. He really came from nowhere. Thankfully, we did not since that would have been horrific.
So that’s all for now. Tomorrow is a new day of more day safari!