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Nightfall on the African Plains

Updated on January 2, 2015

Darkness Spells Danger for Many Wild Animals

As a young lad in Kenya, at nightfall I can remember listening to a cacophony of sounds coming out of the wild, from roars and grunts, to squeals and cries. At that age, I never thought about what was actually happening out in the bush or forest, to me they were just the noises of the night I had become accustomed to. But in reality an awful lot more was happening, and it wasnât all to do with communication or affection.

I knew that there were so many different wild animals, from the very large gentle giants of the plains, who were mainly vegetarians to the ravenous meat eaters who relied on the cover of darkness to search for their food. It's at this time of the day that lives of many species hang in the balance.

Just imagine how that would feel from our point of view, going to bed and not knowing if we would make it through to the next morning unscathed, or even alive!

Created on 14 Sep 2013

IMMINENT - Nightfall

African Beauty

Darkness on the African savannah and in the forests is the time that many animals lower down in the food chain don’t relish, but it’s part of life - their life hangs in the balance every single night, and they have to use all skills to stay alive.

With the cool air of evening taking over from the blistering heat of the day, many predators become more active at this time. With the shadow of darkness and often under moonlit skies the hunters certainly have the upper hand.

Photo credit:

African Animals - Books for the chidren

Youthful Frightened Memories are there forever!

When one is young, nature seemed more distant or perhaps I was the one who was further removed from it. I know I took much of what I saw for granted without a second thought, but snippets have lodged in my memory.

Looking back at those times, I wish I had been more attentive and interested in the world around me, maybe I had been somewhat, as I clearly remember learning many skills from the local African boys, such as trapping insects and making something from anything which nature supplied - there was no going to the local store for bits and pieces.

Other sounds of this small boys night had nothing to do with wild animals, but they were to leave as big an impression on him. Sometimes, rattling noises could be heard coming from the two small windows in our bedroom. My sister and I were absolutely terrified whenever we heard these sounds, we knew something was not right.

My parents, who slept in an adjacent room with the door open between the two rooms, would probably have also heard the noises. My father came in to investigate - the sound stopped! What was it, we cried? It was someone shaking the 2 inch square metals bars covering the entire window area - and trying to get in. The native person would have been armed with a panga (a long bladed knife used for cutting sugar cane and clearing dense bush). This was truly scary for young kids to hear.

From then on, these window rattling sounds were instantly identifiable and always sent a shiver down the spine. The result was always the same - brother and sister immediately shared a bed for comfort.

More memorable experiences from a Kenyan childhood

Photo © Rob Hemphill

African Animals at Night

Lions of the African Night
Lions of the African Night

Discover how animals cope to survive after dark and fend off hunger.

Wild Earth Africa
Wild Earth Africa

A game on the Windows XP Home Edition platform.

There are 11 safaris, each lasting around half an hour duration.

Players get loads of interesting background information on the realistically animated animals.


Nature is Mean and Cruel

Nature is cruel, it's survival of the fittest they say. But alas no, nature isn’t that bad.

Weak and infirm animals of any species are a threat to their contemporaries, especially as they can spread disease throughout healthy animals in the herd, flock or other such grouping. There has to be a good way of dealing with it – and there is – it’s called nature, and it works very well.

Nightfall helps with stealth, so if there’s a gentle moon arising, the hunter is on the prowl. Predators kill their prey for survival, and many sounds of the wild are connected with that battle to remain alive. It's hard to accept that as one species is killed, groups of others will live, nature has worked out the balance perfectly well - even if it's not always to our liking!

Photo credit:

African Animals

The Safari Companion: A Guide to Watching African Mammals
The Safari Companion: A Guide to Watching African Mammals

If you're a wildlife enthusiast and want to broaden your knowledge on the animals of Africa this book will be right up your street.

It's full of detailed interesting information about many of the animals we know and love. Whether you're about to go on a safari or just have a love of the worlds wildlife, I would highly recommend this to accompany you.


Camping in the Bush

My mother on a camping trip with my father and other friends in the 1950s in Tsavo Game Reserve in Kenya.

They have often said how terrifying the sounds and proximity of the hyenas were. They used to come right up to the tent during the night and would be quite capable of killing if given the chance. The first rule is to always remove foodstuffs and keep all possessions inside the tent.

Photo © Rob Hemphill

Hyenas Laugh and Cry in the Night - Scary sounds!

Photo credit:

Hyenas move in on a kill made by some young lions. Lions are often intimidated by the hyena numbers so have to retreat.

I was aware of the ability of hyenas as efficient scavengers and killers throughout the savannah during the day as well as nighttime. On numerous occasions we would hear the screeching noises of the hyenas 'laughs'. When you're in a tent, camping in the bush, hearing this sound is enough to scare the wits out of you.

These animals are the kings of scavenging and operate in well organized packs while they roam the bush. They are real opportunists, skilled at hunting down weak and diseased prey, and love nothing more than fighting other predators over their kills.

Leave your shoes outside your tent and that's the last you'll see of them - hyenas will eat virtually anything!

Have You Heard Scary Sounds at Night in Africa?

See results

Africa's Wildlife Collection Predators and Hunters DVD

Africa's Wildlife

The National Geographic always produces high class images and video with a wealth of world renown photographers and filmmakers. This DVD takes you right into Africa where you'll see extraordinary animals in stunning landscapes.

They bring you up close to see the animals in their natural habitats and coping with their daily existence in harsh habitats.

If you're someone who loves nature and wildlife this is a treat to behold.

Travel to the heartlands of Africa to witness amazing wildlife and stunning landscapes through the eyes of world renown National Geographic photographers and filmmakers. Through extraordinary close-up encounters, see first-hand how these predators and hunters learn to survive and thrive in their unforgiving habitats.

African Nights on the Savannah

How Do The Animals Survive in the Dark?

It's a gamble!

Don’t think that that the hunted aren’t aware of the significance of darkness, they have long worked out what to do. Dig a hole deep into the ground or shin up a high tree into the canopy if possible. That’s fine if they’re able to do either, but what does a small antelope do? It has to make do with lying low in the grass, that doesn't seem to be a guaranteed hiding place to ensure survival, does it?

It must be tough not knowing where your adversary is at every minute of the night. Daytime is not quite so bad, you can usually see your aggressor approaching from afar, and when it sees you just run like hell and hope for the best! However, when it's dark, it doesn't seem fair that the odds change swiftly in the favor of the predators, but nature has thought of that and ensures that the numbers of potential prey will always greatly exceed those of the predators.

Have You a Nightfall Tale To Tell? - Thanks for your visit

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    • Rangoon House profile image


      4 years ago from Australia

      Firstly, I adore the photograph of your mother in Kenya in the 1950s - very "Out of Africa". Secondly, I am privileged to have spent nightfall on safari in Kenya and Tanzania and have heard their unforgettable sounds of darkness.

    • sara0129 profile image

      Shamim Rajabali 

      5 years ago from Texas

      Enjoyed reading this. Ahsante. I grew up in Tanzania, lived there for 20 years. We lived in a city so I had a different experience than yours.

    • RoadMonkey profile image


      5 years ago

      I have been to Kenya but the scariest things I saw there were not the animals. I was in Nairobi and people were building new houses and offices. The scaffolding was ramshackle, tied together with string and as for painting the top of a building - the painter was on a long ladder and to save him coming down the ladder as he moved along with painting - the ladder was carried, with him clinging to the top!

    • OliveHouse profile image


      5 years ago

      I grew up in Seattle...between the rainstorms, serial killers and Unsolved Mysteries, I used to nightmare myself up all the time!!

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      We often hear loons in the cottage in Canada.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I had been to Africa but one can hardly hear sounds now in hotel rooms.

    • QualifiedExpert profile image


      5 years ago

      Great lens!! I will make sure to share this with some friends, spreading some love.

      Cheers, Mike

    • Mary Stephenson profile image

      Mary Stephenson 

      5 years ago from California

      That is scary! I like to keep the doors locked and stay inside, I am not very brave. I do not want to be part of the food chain or as in the city I don't want to be a victim, either.

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 

      5 years ago from Colorado

      Night before last I was awakened in the middle of the night by the intense barking and growling of my dog, Toby. He was more upset than I have ever seen him. Nothing I could do would calm him down. Then I heard a really loud noise on my roof just above where my dog and I were standing. Something big and heavy was moving around up there for the longest time. It was very freaky and frightening. This morning I noticed a really large tear in the screen on my upstairs bedroom window and some shingles that are newly torn loose. I suspect it was either a bear or a mountain lion on my roof. I'm very glad I was inside a house, rather than a tent, at the time. Really strange. Experiencing Africa would be beyond amazing. I know I would get no sleep if I were camping in the wilds there. Such interesting experiences you have had. Enjoyed reading it.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Oh, many moons ago, the family was vacationing in Cook Forest in PA. We saw a pair of eyes coming at us by our bonfire. We ran screaming into the cabin sure it was a bear. A little later, coming back out to the fire, dad was still sitting there. "Hey, where did you guys go? It was just a dog!"

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Visiting Africa would be one of the greatest experiences possible. I hope I get to someday.

    • lesliesinclair profile image


      5 years ago

      Africa holds a special aura and mystery. I can't imagine actually sleeping in a tent amongst hyenas. Wowee!


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