One of the most amazing things about staying in a tent in the African bush is experiencing the sounds of the wilderness, especially once the sun has gone down and all manner of interesting creatures emerge! Indeed, hearing wild Africa can often be overwhelming as a cacophany of calls surrounds you, making it hard to distinguish what’s making what noise!
Now that summer’s in full swing, there’s the incessant hum of cicadas everywhere you go.
Cicadas are truly odd insects that look like they were put together with the spare parts from crickets, moths and flies. It’s actually what’s known as a “true bug” – being a member of the hemiptera family and is related to aphids, leafhoppers and spittlebugs. They produce their trademark hum with a special sound organ called a tymbal which acts like a sound box. By contracting the muscles alongside the tymbal the cicada produces clicks which are combined into a continuous note. It can change the pitch of the note by moving its position relative to the surface it is sitting on.
Along with the constant chirping of crickets and almost incessant signing of various frog species, you’ll also hear the high-pitched squeaks of bats as they negotiate the night skies using echo location to detect and home-in on their insect prey.
You may also hear the distinctive and haunting call of the spotted hyena. Although they live in clans and are very social animals, hyena tend to go out hunting at night alone, splitting up to go their own separate ways and use their voices to keep in touch with other clan members. They call with their heads held low to the ground so ensure the sound reverberates and carries as far as possible. It’s an eerie sound, but equally lovely to hear!
Of course, if you’re very fortunate while laying awake at night you might hear the sound of a leopard calling as it hunts under cover of darkness. If you don’t know what to listen for, the sound of a leopard’s call is like someone sawing wood. It’s very unusual and extremely thrilling to hear. And finally, one of the very best “wow” moments in the African bush is laying in bed in your tent, letting your mind process the array of amazing noises and sounds around you and having the privilege of hearing a lion roaring nearby… It really doesn’t get much better!
Listen here to the sound of cicadas
Listen here to the sound of a leopard calling
Listen here to the sound of a lion calling