Night Time is the Right Time
At Africa's best safari lodges, night drives are an integral part of the daily routine.
You will set out after High Tea, at about 4pm in most instances, returning just before dinner, around 8pm. Times may vary during winter, in order to get the most out of the reduced daylight hours.This is the optimum time of day for spotting game as it represents the 'shift-change' between the nocturnal and diurnal species of the bush, affording you the opportunity to view both. It is also a common time for animals to converge at the waterholes for a nightcap – presenting a possible smorgasbord to any predators in the area.
Your drive will be punctuated by a sundowner in a scenic spot, to enjoy the sight of the sun blazing its way into the horizon, while the bush comes alive with its night-time chorus.
Game drives are conducted in open 4X4 vehicles, by qualified armed rangers, and approach quite close to some species. It is also not uncommon for curious animals to walk right up to the vehicle for a closer look, but as long as you follow your ranger's instructions, you will be perfectly safe.
Although the coveted Big Five are preferred sightings, many other fascinating creatures of the night may also make an appearance on these excursions. Throughout the drive, your ranger will enthral you with information about the local fauna and flora, seeking out interesting things to show you.
The rangers know the whereabouts of the bushveld celebrities, such as the local pride of lions, and will be able to tell you all about them – some of them even have nicknames for individual animals. You may even come across a lion kill, and your chances of seeing a leopard in action are greatly increased on a night drive.
You will be surprised and delighted by unexpected stops for small creatures such as chameleons or moths, which the ranger has somehow spotted from the road. It's not all about creatures great and small though – there are loads of medium sized animals that you are likely to see on a game drive too. Most of these are rarely seen during the day and include porcupines, civets, bushbabies, genets, bats and the African Wild Cat, which is almost never seen in daylight.
It is no secret that owls are nocturnal, and the spotted eagle owl and African Scops owl are often in the spotlight on a night drive. You may even get to see a nightjar – the source of the haunting call that is so characteristic of the African night.
Besides the excitement of seeing nature's nightlife at close range, you will experience the joy of moving quietly along, with all the sounds of the bush around you and a multitude of stars above, followed by the ultimate luxury of returning to camp for a delicious al fresco meal.