I had the great pleasure of spending several nights during my recent trip to South Africa in a river-front fixed tent at Lower Sabie Camp which is a permanently pitched canvas tent with hardwood floors built on stilts, complete with a bedroom and bathroom inside. The view from my porch of a wide meandering river attended by a plethora of Africa’s finest was perhaps the best in the whole of Kruger National Park.
In addition to the giraffe, kudu, zebra and impala I was watching, I also saw several old buffalo bulls lying around the shores of the river chewing the cud. I thought to myself, they must be vulnerable to predators even though I was sure there was enough life in them to put up a heck of a fight. It was a fleeting thought on that exciting day.
An African river comes to a different kind of life after night fall; the sounds of the nocturnal animals on a windless night carries for miles but what woke me up at 2:30 in the morning was not miles away, it sounded like it was right next door.
I laid there in the black dark behind the canvas walls and listened intently. My heart raced as I concluded I was hearing a kill that was happening right outside my tent. Lions killing a buffalo; one of those old bulls I’d seen earlier, I presumed.
I laid dead still and listened. The buffalo moaned something awful with every breath and this went on and on. Hyena whooped in the distance. I was sure they would be headed to the dinner table too. What a day I had in store the next day, I thought, with a kill just outside my tent. I imagined the pride of lion fighting off hyena, jackal and maybe even leopard all within a stone’s throw as my entertainment the next day.
The poor buffalo though was still moaning with every breath bringing my mind back to present time. I heard myself say out loud, "Kill him already!" I was thinking those lions were taking too long to kill the poor buffalo. He was certainly suffering. My emotions jumped from excitement of what I was to witness the next day to the sadness of what was happening at that very moment.
I couldn't stand it any longer. I fumbled for my flashlight so I could find some clothes to throw on then shined the light around my tent to assure myself the coast was clear. I opened the door to my tent and shined the light on my porch then cautiously stepped outside. I shined my light just down from my porch where I was expecting to see the cold eyes and bloodied faces of hungry lions..., but I saw nothing.
I stood out there in of the dark night in silence then heard the noise again.
I suddenly realized what I'd been hearing all along. It wasn’t a kill at all. It was the old man in the tent next to me snoring!
The mind can be a powerful thing especially when you’re alone in a tent in the middle of Africa in the black dark!