The darkness brings forth a sort of primal fear in humans. When the sun goes down, the world seems to change. We, as a species, are creatures of the day and being active at night makes us fundamentally uneasy. Familiar environments become threatening and this is amplified tenfold in safariLIVE’s camp in the Maasai Mara.
A change comes over the camp as the sun goes down. Far away from a city and unnatural lights, most of the camp is engulfed in pitch blackness, with only a few areas (like the studio, kitchen, and bathrooms) providing sources of light. The atmosphere seems to change rapidly once the sun’s light is diminished. During the day, the camp is lively, full of noise and activity. The sound of grinding tools as vehicles are worked on, the chatter of staff through the sea of tents, and the calls of birds echoing across the terrain. But at night, the camp is near dead silent, with only occasional noises interrupting the stillness, such as as a car returning late from the field or the calls of nocturnal animals. These sounds are much more infrequent than those of the day and sound more eerie somehow via their presence.
I am often nervous when I walk the camp at night. Those who lived their lives around civilization I don’t think can appreciate how truly dark the wild is at night. I literally couldn’t see anything if I tried to walk without a flashlight. Not that I would want to, for walking without a source of light through camp is a very bad idea. You see, our camp isn’t sealed off from the rest of the preserve and large animals commonly venture in at night. Zebras, lions, leopards, hyenas, elephants, and even hippopotamuses have intruded into our domain. You can imagine running into a lion or a hippo while stumbling blindly through the night would result in a very nasty situation.
Dinner usually occurs for me at seven o’ clock. I always get a little nervous as I leave the relative safety of the mess tent, stepping outside. At the edge of the light stands the pitch darkness, stretching off into the plains of the Maasai Mara. I can hear sounds I didn’t perceive during the day: the creaky swaying of branches, the soft whoosh of the wind, and the flapping of tents. I can’t see anything out there but I know there’s a possibility something large could be creeping about, waiting.
Nervously, I switch on my flashlight, bathing the path in front of me in light. The darkness is brushed back, revealing the camp site. Tents are strewn about, while low hanging branches dangle above the path ahead. In the night, the branches resemble claws, adding to the sudden tension I am gripped with. Slowly, I step off, the crunch of my shoes against the dirt bursting like a gunshot. I take another breath and leave the safety of the mess tent behind, walking off alone into the darkness.
I make my way through camp, sticking to the path as I’ve been told to do. I don’t encounter any people on my walk, no familiar faces emerging to disperse the nervousness. My eyes flick about, watching the edges of my flashlight’s vision. I don’t see anything but my imagination conjures images of a pack of hyenas stalking me. Unhelpfully, my brain reminds me of some footage I watched the other day where a hyena pack brought down a buffalo. My brain reminds me that could be me next. I tell my brain to shut up.
I continue onward, listening intently but unable to hear anything. The silence is maddening. It feels like the entire world is holding its breath. Just waiting for something to happen…like a lion bursting from the foliage and tackling me for a feast. But nothing happens. My venture through the darkness over the rugged terrain leaves me unharmed and soon enough, I find my tent, sitting there like a safe haven.
Inside, I quickly switch on the lights and feel more at ease. I settle in my bed and listen, intently, to the sounds of the night. I hear the chirping of crickets, the wind rustling against the tent, and the eerie sounds of unknown nocturnal animals. And slowly, I drift off to sleep.
The night is a whole different world. The camp in the Mara seems to personify this for me, existing in two different realms: day and night. The shift is very noticeable and even frightening on some level. But it is a fascinating world nonetheless and I would love to explore the campsite after dark. But I think I’ll remain indoors. After all, I don’t want to get eaten.
Written by: Jake McDaniel