Out On A Limb – a night out in “The Nest”

The silky waters of the Mara River meander by, laughing hippo chuckling and roaring away as they limber up for the night-time sojourn to the fields of red oat grass beyond the riverbanks. Curious black-faced vervets, aware of something new in the tree, leap up the lower limbs of neighbouring arbours dodging their heads backwards and forwards angling for a better view. No alarm calls today though – their curiosity satisfied, they carry on searching out ants and fruits to snack on, seeking a nearby perch for their own bedtime.

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The river provides at least 180 degrees of inaccessibility to any would-be predators. Across on the other bank ranges a journey of giraffe… Closer still, a harem of impala herded by the dominant male. Slaking their thirst on the dew-ridden grasses, they need not drop down the riverbanks to drink. Baboons mooch along in loose formation: they too are searching out a safe haven for the night.

Feet dangling over the edge, pages rustling in the breeze, the forgotten novel takes second place to the grappling hippo: jaws wide, gaping and displaying enormous tusks as they vie for a higher rank, hoping one day to depose the dominant male.

Gentle waves riding the river’s chocolate waters reveal the mating hippo below the dappled surface… 12 feet up in the love nest, rugs line the warm wooden deck, beads of condensation trickle, a bottle of rosé blushes in the late evening sunlight… The salmon pink sunset, retreating softly over the skyline.

The hippo leave the river at last: the sun has set and the moon lights their path to the fields of grass, their great silver backs glistening in the moonlight. Impressions grow stronger in the growing darkness; sounds become accentuated as the senses become heightened by the loss of sight. Smells pervade wafting in the air, and birdsong is silent now as the insects take the lead in the quiet of the night.

A click of the switch, and the infrared flood lights the way for the night vision camera. A thermal imaging device picks up the white-hot body signal of those hippo that remain in the water, their footprints glowing in the soil as they trudge up the bank. Further away it illumines the heat signal of a sleeping dove.

AW Leopard CU

Night passes with quiet alerts: a breaking branch or sawing cough signalling the presence of a leopard trawling the riverbanks for sign of prey. Gradually, gradually, the dawn creeps in and unveils the rising sun… time to welcome in the new day.

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Photo Credits: Rachel Ambrose, Gerard Ambrose, Andrew Brown, Eliza Deacon, Peter Haygarth, John Moller, Paul Sheen, Angus O'Shea, Roisin Perret, Anup Shah, Manoj Shah & Alex Walker.
Copy by: Robyn-Lee Ghaui
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