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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The story: The Night the Elephants Came to Visit
Here’s to enjoying the wild mysteries of the night.
Photo credit: Athena Alexander