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As the sun sets on the African plain, safari protocol calls for a sundowner where drinks and snacks are served on picnic tables set up next to the vehicle. On a couple of occasions on our trip, this tradition was interrupted by more interesting activities.
Once we followed four male lions as they headed to a nearby watering hole (Safari 7: Pooh on You). Another time a pride of lions appeared on a nearby hill (Safari 12: Sundowner Surprise) causing us to get in the vehicle and head over to watch.
But usually we stuck with tradition, loading up the vehicle and heading back to camp as total darkness approached. Typically, its a straight trip back as the dark overtakes us but, even then, something interesting could happen, as when we stumbled on a leopard hunting nearby the road in the bushy terrain near Rhino Camp (Safari 13: Stalag Panzee).
Once back in camp there is usually time for a quick shower before a late dinner. In some camps, guests would gather around a fire pit before dinner to relax and exchange stories. The fire pit below was in the woods at Nairobi National Park Camp.
At Rhino Camp, a waterhole sits 50 yards away across a small stream with a deep embankment. One evening there, we heard sounds coming from the waterhole and were greeted with this view when one of our Maasai hosts brought out a search light.
Their quick unveiling by the light and relatively close proximity gave new meaning to the concept of an intimate safari experience. There was no sense of imminent danger. Only one of awe.
I was not a big fan of our two night drives. Yes, I was interested in seeing what was out an about at night. But the bright intrusive lights needed to view the animals and the sense I had that we were somewhere we should not be left me with an odd feeling.
Nonetheless, the few images I took during these drives do help to illustrate how active the animals were while we were sleeping. And, how active they were while we were being escorted to our tents after dinner.
I was never particularly concerned about safety during the trip except, perhaps, for a moment during one escorted tent walk at Lion Camp. The setting there placed the tents in a line facing out onto an open plain of tall grasses.
The night before had been particularly noisy with what sounded like two prides of lions exchanging roars and barks late into the night. First, you would hear them off to the left. And then, a few minutes later, the roars would come from the right. That same night we were woken by the sound of heavy breathing and chomping behind the tent, likely a hippo from the stream behind the camp.
As related earlier (Safari 3: Tented Camps and Conservancies), the nights were full of sound. Everything from the indescribable wails of hyena to the snorts of cape buffalo and hippo to the barks and roars of lions reminded you each night where you were.
But the back and forth of the lion prides was something special to hear. It also emphasized just how open our camp was and why you are always escorted at night by a Maasia warrior carrying a flashlight and a long pole.
On this one night that security and safety entered my mind, we were being escorted along a pathway to our room and talking about just how open the area was and just how long the grasses were. Certainly tall enough to hide a lion.
And then we noticed. Our escort was scanning the grasses with his flashlight between shining it ahead on our path. A reasonable thing to do, for sure, but not particularly comforting when all he carried was a long pole.
We had headed back to the tent later that night than usual, having stayed in the dining tent after dinner to socialize and then, with a break in the cloud cover that did not last long enough, to try and photograph the night sky.
The equatorial sky shows more of the Milky Way than the Northern Hemisphere and even though we were near full moon it was worth trying to take a picture. Those of you who have followed this blog for sometime will know that night photography is hobby, particularly photographing the night sky from remote locations (See It's Not That Far From Here 4/26/2018, The Color of Black and White 4/19/2018 and More About Dark Skies 8/29/2016).
Our attempt that night failed. The clouds rolled in before we could take the shot. Still, it makes for a nice representation of night in the Lion Camp.
What you see in addition to a cloudy sky with a few clear patches revealing a bit of the heavens, is a small gathering tent and some of the fence that surrounds the staff and kitchen areas. The dining tent is off picture to the left.
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All photos and text are copyright Clinton Richardson. The images are from the author's Safari Collection at Trekpic.com. If you like these posts, please tell your friends about the Venture Moola blog at Readjanus.com. Want to plan your own safari? If so, feel free to check out the outfitter we used at Porini.com.
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The venture moola blog comes to you from Atlanta, Georgia. Find it at readjanus.com. Copyright Clinton Richardson.
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