November 15, 2012 – Night Drive – Selinda
One of the things that I had really been looking forward to doing was spending a night out in the Selinda Hide (basically an outdoor elevated platform open to the elements (ie., ALL the elements, be they the atmospheric kind or the four-legged and/or the slithering kind). Really, I was looking forward to it and we had planned it months in advance. All that got thrown out the window when Evan arrived sick that first day. Besides the fact that I didn’t feel right leaving him (he was really sick), the rain that came down hard that afternoon was threatening even more for the evening. Before I knew it, we were looking at our last night at Selinda. Isaac offered up an interesting alternative – going out for a night drive after dinner. I was intrigued that Isaac had hosted a recent guest who had only been interested in night drives. The issue with night drives for us (as photographers) is that you don’t want to shine a light on any animal for more than a few brief seconds so as not to call attention to them or to predators nearby. This is my one night shot – of a very deadly green snake (called a Boom Slang) that we passed in the bush – can you believe that Isaac spotted this with just a small flashlight as we drove by?? According to Isaac, these guys are much more deadly than the Black Mamba (relatively speaking that is – I mean, dead is dead, but with this snake you apparently only have minutes!)
That evening I developed an immense appreciation for how a blind person’s remaining senses become heightened to compensate for their lack sight. When the sun goes down, and you can’t see your hand in front of your face, Africa gets pretty darn loud! From the tiny frogs making music on the Spillway, to the hoot of an owl, the snort of a hippo and to the penetrating echo of a lion’s roar miles away you realize how alive the bush is – I know this is going on all day long, but the Bush seems to take on a life of its own after the sun goes down.
Not being able to photograph turned out to be the downside of the night drive, so we called it an early night, but not before we came across a baby impala or reedbok that was unfortunately crying loudly for its mother. We had noted at the end of our afternoon drive that Leopard #3 was close to this open field when we left it. We surmised that the Leopard may have given chase to the herd and the mother got separated from her baby. It was very difficult to watch and listen to this baby in such distress. If it did not find its mother soon it would only be “reunited” in another dimension – if you know what I mean… This was a perfect example of why you don’t want to shine a light on the animals – the baby was desperately calling out to its mother who it needed to survive, but the anxious calling also had the potential to attract the unwanted attention of many a hungry predator – the harsh reality of the Circle of Life, front and center. We left the baby to find its place. We did not want our human intervention to influence the Circle’s outcome.
“In the circle of life
It’s the wheel of fortune
It’s the leap by faith
It’s the band of hope
Till, we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the circle
The circle of life”
-Elton John, The Lion King
I love this song, it helps me rationalize the early death of a defenseless grazer in the jaws of a hungry predator (who also needs to eat and perhaps feed her own young ones). Yet as I write this I have to acknowledge Joseph Conrad’s darkness – the darkness that we humans inflict upon each other, upon ourselves and upon all living beings. Some of us believe it is our right, some of us live in complete apathy or resignation and still others live deeply in this heart of darkness – completely clueless of our actions. We all need to WAKE UP and Choose to Make a Difference!
“The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much.”
– Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness, Part 1
More to come on my WAKE UP call. Also, I am committing to a night in the “heart of darkness”, ie., the Selinda Hide, when we return – no excuses.