Into the darkness

Into the darkness

The first half of the week was birding and botany. During our drives we focused on the identification, beliefs and information of the different trees, grasses and birds, which is fun to learn but can be tricky.

Onto last Thursday morning, we started preparations for the sleep out on the Makalali game reserve.  We gathered our required equipment, packed our vehicles and set out to find a suitable spot. The first spot we considered we decided against and found a nicer one, which was an open area of red sand and dry scrub around our sleeping spot.

Once all was set up and everyone was happy we enjoyed delicious food prepared by our lovely cooks back at Bushwise. The meat was cooked at our campsite by some of my fellow students – a fine job they did too. Being under the stars, surrounded by good company and having a warm fire topped off a wonderful evening.

We were split into 3 groups of five and from about 9:30pm we had 3 people doing one and a half hour shifts, watching for animals with big teeth. My shift was in the middle of the night, so I stayed awake till my shift and only got to sleep at about 2am. Not that I’m complaining, I live for these kinds of experiences.

Luckily nothing big came too close to our camp but we could hear them a short distance away. We heard hyena howling and laughing to our North/East side, Leopard on our East/South side and then we had the lion roaring to our West side, so basically surrounded by the amazing sounds of the African bush.

Keeping the fire going all night and always having someone on watch are very important responsibilities! The fire deters the predators, provides warmth and of course allows us to make much enjoyed tea and coffee when it’s cold. Having someone on watch means they can alert everyone to dangerous animals that may be getting too close, so there’s time to react quickly to the situation.

Spending the night out exposed to nature in a Big 5 area is exciting and I look forward to many more nights like this.

The morning brought the cold but also relief for the last team on watch duty because it meant it was time for a break, and a chance to warm up by the fire with their hot beverage.

All packed up we were ready for our morning drive to see what other interesting animals we could see. We had good bird sightings, and a surprise when we looked at our first possible site for the camp. There were quite a lot of tracks of lions and other large animals which would possibly have made for  an unfavourable situation with close encounters.

Once back at Bushwise we had the task of cleaning, but I assure you, the fun we had by far outweighed the chores of cleaning and packing.

If anyone has an interest in this sort of activity, Bushwise gives you the knowledge and experience you need to have adventures like these, safely.

Friday night was a whole different experience. We got to observe the longest lunar eclipse of the century. The blood moon was amazing! We didn’t have a telescope but we really didn’t need one, our cameras and binoculars were good enough. The fact that we were observing this from the bush instead of in a city made it even more special to me.

Blog by Xavier d’Hotmann