Creatures of the Night 

31 October 2017 | Inside Angama |

Reading Time: 3 MINUTES

From the pitter-patter noises on the tent roof to the galloping sound on the gravel path, Tyler Davis indulged his curiosity about the noises in the night and this is what he discovered

Have you ever wondered what critters lurk around your tent while you sleep? Which creepy creatures are sniffing at the seams? Who pitter-patters across the roof? What, exactly, does go bump in the night?

Please rest/sleep assured – you are perfectly safe in your Angama tent. But if you do possess a genuine curiosity about what those night noises could be, you’re in good company: so do we.

Creatures of the night - collage 1

The Mara is humming with activity during the day, but arguably even more so at night, and as we feeble humans aren’t adapted to see much beyond our noses in such low light, we are mostly clueless to what’s going on. Not surprisingly, there’s great technology to get over our evolutionary shortcoming, including the use of infrared light.

Very few vertebrates can sense infrared light, and to many it is entirely imperceptible. Thus, a camera equipped with an infrared flash is effectively undetectable, even at night, and allows us to see what passes by without disturbance.

For the last month, we have had a camera trap on loan and have deployed it to two locations, each for two weeks:  the first was the birdbath outside our house, and the second was the path between the back of house and North Camp.

Creatures of the night - collage 2

Here is what we have “caught” so far:

  • Silvery Galago:  this small nocturnal primate, also known as a bushbaby, is among the most notorious of culprits for making terrifying night noises, indeed screaming like a crying baby, “WAH-WAH-Wah-wah-wah . . .” They are also likely what you hear pitter-pattering across your canvas roof while you try to sleep (it is SO much louder on our galvanized iron roof at our house. Every. Single. Night.)
  • Large-spotted Genet: another likely perpetrator scampering across your roof, but otherwise generally not terribly noisy. At least two live around our house, and seem to love having skirmishes with the bushbabies on our roof.
  • Bush Pig: this was a very exciting capture, as these warthog-like animals are scarce in the Mara and very difficult to see. I’ve only seen them twice in the last two and half years, though our storekeepers tell us they frequent the hillside behind the stores, rummaging for spilled onions and potatoes after our weekly supply truck makes a delivery.
  • Bushbuck: a shy and secretive antelope we rarely see, though they are known to become quite habituated to human activity, and even tame over time. It appears we have a mating pair hiding in the thick bush around North Camp; maybe they’ll be more obliging in the years to come.
  • Kirk’s Dik-dik: our tiniest antelope, barely larger than a hare, and fairly common around the Lodge. You might spook these miniscule ungulates in the early morning, or catch a glimpse of them as you return from Bush BBQ at night.
  • Burchell’s Zebra: a regular nocturnal camp visitor and one of the noisiest as they graze near the tents, sometimes so close that you can even hear their teeth grating.

Creatures of the night - collage 3

And if you think the galloping sound up and down the gravel paths is the Horseman of the Apocalypse, fear not, it’s just a common and garden zebra.

  • Spotted Hyena: you’ll hear them every night, whooping in the distance from somewhere below – but yes, sometimes they also pass through camp while we are all asleep.
  • Gambian Pouched Rat: also known as the African Giant Pouched Rat, named for its hamster-like cheek pouches, this is another skittish animal you’re unlikely to see beyond the camera trap, even though they’re not uncommon. They have terrible eyesight, but make up for it with an incredible sense of smell, and have even been trained to detect landmines and tuberculosis.

Not a bad start, but there’s more to be “trapped”, and we’re excited to see what else we find in the weeks, months, and years to come.

FILED UNDER: Inside Angama

AUTHOR: Tyler Davis

Guide and birding fundi, Tyler was also one half of the regional director couple that lead the team at Angama Mara for the first five years. Being the birding extraordinaire that he is, he was known to let his attention wander during meetings. The trick to keep him focused was to place him with no direct view of anything feathered. Tyler ensures that we are a grounded and well-rounded team. He also sometimes forgets to take his binoculars off at dinnertime.

Will Taylor
October 31, 2017

great post Tyler!

    Nicky Fitzgerald
    November 3, 2017

    I totally agree!

Ellen Freschauf
October 31, 2017

Very good to know – I ‘ll look forward to lying awake and identifying what is snorting and snorking outside ….

    Nicky Fitzgerald
    November 3, 2017

    And while you lie awake you can watch the beautiful African night sky from your bed

Annette Nagni
November 2, 2017

Loved your article Tyler; amazing how busy Angama is at night!!

    Nicky Fitzgerald
    November 3, 2017

    When you next come and stay we will take you on a night safari around the lodge 🙂

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