In one of the amazing Punda Maria fixed tents my fellow traveler and I slept like babies until at some point in the night I heard a sound. When in Africa in any tent or accommodation a sound in the night can be one of many things. I pride myself in being able to identify much of these sounds; a baboon bark, a bush baby scream, hyena howl, lion grunt and more. This sound, however, was none of those. It was as if something was plucking at an object and that object sounded crunchy and both the object as well as the “something” was not far from my bed.
I awoke my friend to say I thought something was in our tent. They dismissed it – the “it” being me - and promptly went back to sleep. I am sure thinking I was being paranoid. But paranoid is not my mode of operandi in Africa; after all I have traveled fourteen African countries on many trips by myself before taking a fellow traveler along. I shined my mag light around the tent but nothing choose to dance in the beams so I extinguished the light and laid back down. Only a few minutes later the plucking sound continued. I said to myself, as I have said to myself many a night in an African bed, that nothing that day set out to hurt me and whatever that was he was just living his life as I was mine. I slept.
The next day we moved camp down to Olifants. As we prepared dinner that evening, to be cooked over our amazing Braai overlooking the Olifants River where an entire herd of elephant was crossing, I pulled an avocado out of the paper bag I had placed it in to ripen and said, "Ah ha! Something has been eating this,” and held up a ripe avocado that had wee little chunks taken out of it all over. Most likely the same dormouse with his cute little bushy tail that had watched us play backgammon on the porch the night before had made his way inside the tent somehow for a bit of a late night snack. I felt vindicated!
This isn’t the only time I have had critters inside a Kruger accommodation. Many a lizard and spider have slept with me in Africa. They too, I was convinced, were not out to hurt me and I allowed them to stay. (One really large spider I did try to drown in beer and when that didn’t work I beat it to pieces with a toilet brush but I am braver now.)
Bats too – also at Olifants – for two days in a row were in my hut; one alive in the shower which I wrapped in a towel and released and one morning I discovered a dead bat in a shoe; that’s a whole other story!
I have come to the conclusion that anything nonvenomous that chooses to come in for protection from the elements which agrees to sign an indemnity form stating that should it scare me it dies can stay…. There is a clause in the form thought that states all bets are off if the said signed critter chooses to jump out unexpected causing harm to me as I scramble possibly breaking my neck to get away.