The Stalkers of a Moonless Night in Tsavo East
Have you ever laid in your tent at night listening to the scurrying sounds outside your tent and ventured to see what was stirring? Ever been the last one sitting at a campfire deep in the bush and wonder what it would be like to venture away into the shadows obscured by the darkness? Ever done so during a new moon? Night safaris are silent and spooky. You have to walk slowly and scan systematically with your flashlight for the reflection of eyes. Any sound requires careful inspection. It is never a good idea to stray very far from shelter. However, on our night safari in Tsavo East National Park, we learned that danger lurks in the campsite too, if you take the time to look for it.
One night my friend Casey and I lingered by the campfire in the heart of Tsavo East. We were over excited by a close encounter with a lion in the campsite hours before and encouraged by warm beers. A scorpion ventured into the firepit area, and I laid down in the sandy dirt to focus the camera on its pinpoint black eyes. My cheek lay on the ground to lower the lens as low as possible, and being a little too close, the scorpion lifted its tail to threaten me. Casey jolted forward and ripped me back to my feet as the flash of a camel spider dashed over the imprint my cheek left in the sand. It was not attacking me, creatures were just running around everywhere. The electricity of the hunt was in the air.
The unbelievable speed and the giant jaws of the camel spider had us spooked, but intrigued. What else was out there? We found a gecko the color of the Namibian sand dunes, a long legged centipede lurking in the bark of a tree, and a couple massive tarantulas peering out of their webbed layer in a hollowed log. A glimmering purple snake with a black head slithered between us, stopped for a picture, and mysteriously disappeared the moment we took the flashlight off of it.
We ventured to the edge of the campsite, where the tall adrenaline grass starts, and a responsible night safari stops. We wanted to know what else was out there, but we knew we were also unprepared to face much of it. The stalkers of the night were in their element and we felt out of ours. Somehow these night hunters seemed more dangerous than the lions and leopard lurking farther afield. They hunted so silently on the same ground shared by our tents. While they were not hunting us, it was a stark reminder to shake out your boots in the morning as the nights are alive while you sleep. Marauding creatures of all sizes are stalking from the treetops to the leaf litter. In the bush a safari is much more than a game drive. It is being part of the ecosystem for a while, just try to avoid being part of the food chain as well.
Notes for Nomads:
We camped at Ndololo Public Campsite. You often have it to yourself. There is an enclosed kitchen, although a bushbaby seems to know how to get in at night and public toilets. There is a ranger post a short walk through the bush that sells “cold” beers and looks after the bandas closeby. We recommend driving the short distance to the ranger post at dusk as it was in that small patch of bush separating the campsite from the ranger post that we had a close encounter with a lion.