Part of the experience of staying in the bush is the knowledge that you are completely immersed in it – something we were reminded of after a loud nighttime stand-off between animals.
While Marataba Safari Lodge is fenced off, animals do occasionally make their way into camp. Our guests are usually delighted when this happens, but precautions do need to be taken. This is especially true at night, when predators are most active.
We know based on tracks and calls that leopards, lions and hyaenas do move around the area where the lodge is based. It can be quite exciting to hear them vocalising at night.
From time to time, these animals may even pass through the camp itself. This is why it is critical that everyone follows the rules after dark, and walks to their tent with a night porter, who knows exactly what to do should an animal encounter happen.
A few evenings ago, at around 9pm, sudden and unexpected vocalisations from lions and hyenas were heard from camp. It was quite obvious that these animals were not too far away.
While the guests were finishing off their dinner, a group of staff members went to investigate and figure out how to get the guests back to their tents safely.
What we found was an incredible sight: a pride of lions having a stand-off with three spotted hyenas. Though the hyenas were far louder than the lions, their whooping and cackling reverberating through the night, the lions were fascinating to watch.
The pride consisted of a female, a male and four cubs. All of them, including the cubs who were most likely copying the adults, were scent marking on the spot, as if to assert their dominance over the area.
Eventually the lions started to advance towards the hyenas, who retreated into the bush and disappeared. The lions also left the area and moved off north, away from the lodge.
We nevertheless escorted the guests back to their tents with extra precaution. We were right to do so, as the sounds of both the hyenas and lions started again about fifteen minutes after the last guests had been taken back to their tents.
The vocalising went on around the lodge and continued well into the morning. Not the worst sound to wake up to in the bush!
Words by: Field Guide Helen Mertens
Image by: Scott Fraser