Black (as Night) Friday

Spotted Hyena, Zambia

This is the day in America when shoppers are enticed into stores for big sales. But for those of us who find greater value in fresh air and nature scenes, I thought it would be fun on this Friday to take you into the black night of Africa.

 

Except for the light of the moon, the nights are pitch black.

 

Giant Eagle Owl, Botswana aka Verreaux’s Owl

 

Safari Night Drive. One night in Zambia we were slowly driving along in the dark when our guide stopped and told us to get ready. We couldn’t hear or see anything, but he told us which way to face. Cameras went up.

 

Then he turned on the spotlight and right in front of us was a pool with about a dozen hippos quietly grazing on the water plants.

 

Hippo Pool, Zambia

 

Most of the time, guides keep the spotlight turned off to avoid disturbing the animals; they slowly drive the jeep with just parking lights.

 

With the spotlight off, all you can see are the animals’ eye-shine piercing through the deep dark. It is eerie to look out over a grass field and see dozens of those colored eyes looking at you. You don’t know if it’s a snarling hyena or an antelope.

 

You never ever step out of the vehicle.

 

Leopard, Zambia

 

The metallic-like colored dots are at various heights. Low to the ground are the hares, mongooses, rodents, and night birds. Several inches higher up are the small wild cats like civet or genet.

 

Genet, Tanzania

 

Gabon Nightjar, Zambia

 

Even on the blackest, darkest night, a good guide can identify the animal just by the eye shine. Eyes can be close together, far apart, and different colors according to species. Animal identification also depends on where the eyes are:  in tall grass, on tree limbs, in water, running, or not running.

 

We came across this leopard pair in the Luangwa Valley in Zambia. We saw them a couple of times, and at one point the male had caught a bird that hung limply from his jaws. They walked off to enjoy their midnight snack, and we never saw them again.

 

Leopards, Zambia

 

Wild Cat, Botswana — Ancestor to the Domestic House Cat

 

The elephant was one of my favorite experiences in all of life. The photo is not the greatest, but the memory is. That night we were awakened by a stormy rustling.

 

It turned out to be a mother and her calf just outside our flimsy door. What sounded like a rain storm was the mother elephant tearing apart a tree, eating the leaves.

 

We remained silently watching, not making a sound.

 

Elephant, Zambia, the structure with windows on the left is our cottage

The story: The Night the Elephants Came to Visit

 

Here’s to enjoying the wild mysteries of the night.

 

Photo credit: Athena Alexander

African Civit

 

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88 thoughts on “Black (as Night) Friday

  1. Jet your descriptions and photos take me right back to our African safari earlier this year. The driving and gazing into the blackness and the excitement of eyes spotted. I couldn’t believe how the guides could pick out the tiniest of creatures in the blackness. We came to a screeching halt at one point and there was a tiny chameleon on a nearby branch. How amazing about the elephant outside your ‘door’. These experiences are such a gift. I am happy to be reminded of our own through your wonderful post.

    • The night drives are really exciting, and I am delighted to have revived your recent memories, Sue. There are many parks, especially in Kenya and Tanzania, where night drives are forbidden due to the dangers of poaching. But when the opportunity comes up, it is so. very. fun. My thanks and best wishes to both you and Dave, Sue, for a wonderful weekend ahead.

  2. Wow, what an experience. I often wonder what goes on in the considerably tamer confines of the nature parks and reserves that I visit to take photos. Your words and photos help to give us a sense of all of the fascinating nocturnal activity that takes place while we are generally sleeping.

    • What a world the African savannah is at night. There is so much activity! It is a pleasure to share it with you, Mike, just as it is always a pleasure to go adventuring along with you. Many thanks–

  3. One of the best experiences from my years in Liberia was learning, over time, to be comfortable in that dark, dark night. There was much less wildlife to contend with, and not nearly so much drama, but it was extraordinary to be in a place where the moon and stars ruled, and the sounds of the settling earth were so clear. I remember the sounds of the birds most clearly: perhaps the reason that your nightjar photo is so appealing.

    • Thank very much, Linda. I agree, the dark night can offer a delightful connection to earth. And yes, that nightjar was really special to find. How wonderful for you to have great memories of Liberia. Thank you for stopping by.

  4. What a wonderful story about the elephant Jet . . . and the night eyes! I am finding it difficult to imagine it but I certainly believe that a good guide could identify the animals just from their eye shine. It is truly remarkable what our human senses are capable of if we give them the opportunity. However, it is also necessary to train them (eyes, ears, etc) to achieve that sort of sensitivity and it is something that can diminish too, if not practiced.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the elephant visit post, Alastair. That was a really special visit that night, and I was glad we had so long with the mother and her calf, by just standing still, listening, and observing. You are a champion of that too, as I have so many times enjoyed your sound recordings — I’m sure you agree the rewards are endless. And you’re right, it does take training our senses, and having patience too. You would not believe the sounds of the African night. Thanks so much, my friend, always a pleasure.

  5. These black as night stories lit up my morning – thanks, Jet! Each of the illuminated creatures is beautiful, but the leopard photos are wonderful. And lovely though they all are, I would never, ever get out of the car.
    What a store of memorable adventures, and more to come as you get back on track. Have a good weekend!

    • We were almost always leaving camp in the morning dark, then going out again after dinner, which made for an extremely full day. And so much fun. The leopards were a really special find. We were on a separate event for that, scouting the Luangwa Valley with our tour guide friends. And yes, we are getting back on track in very small ways. Today we went up to our house for a few hours, and met with a contractor who is going to help us get the major systems up and running again. I so enjoy your weekly visits, pc, and I look forward to reading your Friday post as well.

    • All those eyes in the dark, as you so aptly describe it, were a unique and thrilling experience. I’m glad you could imagine it and especially glad I could share it with you, Andrea.

  6. How very interesting Jet. After all these years the reality of my camping in a tiny two-man tent off the beaten track down the east coast of Africa for five weeks is finally sinking in. Don’t think I’d be doing it now that I’m older, wiser and getting up at least twice each night, lol!

  7. One thing is remarkably evident… their Black Friday is much quieter and safer than ours! Have you seen the store shoppers on TV? My dear friend your post is very interesting as well as you know how to do. 🙂

  8. Thanks for this wonderful recounting of animals you were lucky enough to see. I’d never heard of, much less seen, a Genet. What an amazingly regal looking creature. I started wondering if it was related to a cat, but apparently not. How very lucky you are to have all these memories stored away!

    • I had never heard of a genet until we were there either, Gunta. It was great fun putting together a recounting of the night drives, I’m glad you enjoyed it. Always a joy to “see” you, my friend.

  9. As someone who deeply dislikes Black Friday (yes it is here in the UK now) I am delighted to see this post. I chose to stay in my studio painting all day rather than getting involved with the human mayhem. The photographs in this post are amazing as is the text. It must be such an extraordinary sensation to see the eyes of so many animals and to know that they are completely surrounding you….and that many of them could eat you in one gulp!:) Now there’s a thought. Thank you Jet…I am thinking of you every day and only wish I was closer so that I could do something to help….Janet

    • It was really fun figuring out how to put a spin on this over-rated day, and what a joy to revisit the night safaris in Africa. I almost included the night safaris from our Australia trip, but that seemed like too much, so I’m glad it turned out this way and that you enjoyed it so much. I did not know BF is in the UK too. I love the image of you painting in your studio all day. You have helped immensely with your kind messages and thoughts, Janet, and I am deeply appreciative.

    • Such a delight to receive your visit, ACI, thank you. The shining eyes, they are something I will never forget. Some are pink, some are green, some are yellow-white. And oh, that visit from the elephant mother and calf was indeed very special, I am thrilled to share it with you. Thank you so much, ACI.

  10. What an amazing adventure! I adore the cat pics the most, and I’m oddly drawn to the wild cat who, although a predecessor, looks a lot like the kitties at home. Thank you!

    • Hi Resa, great to receive your visits today, thank you. That wild cat sighting was really special. We only saw it that one time, and for a only a brief visit. The cat really looked like a domestic cat, and with good reason, they are the ancestor. Thanks so much for stopping by, it was a joy.

  11. Amazing! The leopard shots are very cool; they’re so sleek and muscular, but I love the elephant photo, also. Civets remind me of the time I spent a lot of money on coffee that has passed through the digestive system of a civet. 🙂 A little off topic, but it’s not often I see civet photos.

    • Thanks very much, Lesley, it’s great to have you stop by and comment. The civets were a real treat to see, and we only saw them a few times, so we glad to get a photographic capture. Enjoyed your comment a lot, thank you.

    • Thank you fromdustoftheeart. The night safaris are really mysterious and fun, but getting decent photos in the dark is tricky. I was glad I could put together a few of the highlights, and delighted you came along to enjoy.

    • Yes, the elephant mother and calf right beside our cottage was unsettling, Kirt, you’re right. Especially in the frail little straw-made unit we were in, with the thatched roof. It easily would’ve toppled if either of them had stepped the wrong way. But that lasted less than a minute, as the thrill increased, because it was such an intimate and interesting encounter. My thanks for your visits today, much appreciated.

    • Love knowing you had a night safari leopard experience, too, Helen. The Luangwa Valley is a very special place, I am glad you have been there and experienced it. Thank you for your visits today.

  12. Hi, I have read some of your blog posts and I absolutely love them. You’re so lucky to see such amazing animals at night! I am currently a safari guide in South Africa and am trying to share my experiences with everyone. It would be greatly appreciated if you have a look at my blog samhankss.wordpress.com and let me know what you think. Many thanks in advance.

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