The Sounds of Nature at Motswari
Shhh…do you hear that? Silence? Probably not. Whether it be the hum of the fridge, the ticking of a clock, blurred conversations, or the endless drone of traffic, our lives are constantly filled with noise. It’s seldom that we are ever able to fully immerse ourselves in a space where the sounds we hear are not a symptom of human interference with nature.
Studies by epidemiologists have revealed that spending too much time around excessive man-made noise can have serious effects on our health, including high blood pressure, sleep loss, heart disease and elevated stress levels.
If there is one thing that makes many a traveller yearn for time in the African bush time and time again, it is the opportunity to unplug from “the noise” and plug into the uninhabited, raw sounds of nature. It is an indescribable, emotive feeling to be so absorbed in the world of the wild at Motswari and the vast Timbavati and Umbabat Reserve, listening to Mother Africa in all her lavish glory. It is the first thing that strikes you as you remove yourself from the rest of the world, and something that will remain with you for years to follow. It will leave you feeling replenished, serene, and at one with what is really important. It will also create a real longing in you to come back again, and again.
Here are some of our favourite (of the many!) sounds of the wild Motswari bush symphony:
Perhaps the most iconic sound in all of Africa, the African Fish Eagle captures the very essence and spirit of this wild land. It is no wonder it is referred to as the “voice of Africa”. Often seen perching on branches, overlooking the water for potential prey, which it swoops down skillfully to capture, the Fish Eagle lets out a loud weee-ah, followed by alternating high and low kow-kow-kow.
Undoubtedly the loudest roar of any of the big cats, the lion’s roar evokes trepidation and excitement at the same time. The roars are very characteristic and most often heard at night (from as far as 8 km away!) to advertise their presence and communicate with other lions and lionesses. The sound of a lion’s roar starts with a few, very deep, long roars that then trail off into a series of shorter grunts.
Evenings in the bush are often punctuated by the sinister cackle and whoop of the spotted hyena – also referred to as the laughing hyena. The spine-tingling high-pitched hysterical “laughter” is often used during times of excitement or submission by a more dominant hyena. The “whoop” call can be heard from very far away and is used to claim territory, find cubs or bring the clan together. These spotted cacklers also use a series of groans, squeals and grunts to greet each other. A vocal bunch indeed!
Another eerie night sound, the nocturnal nightjar drums out a very distinctive and characteristic, smooth and rhythmical, sound described by bird aficionados as “good Lord, deliver us”. Slurred initial notes with a rising tone, end with rapid, almost trilled notes with a falling tone. The call is particularly audible during the full moon phase and less so on darker nights. The nightjar is most often seen on evening game drives sitting in the middle of the road until the very last second before flying off.
If you’ve ever sat around the fire at night at Motswari, you may have found your conversation somewhat drowned out by yet another distinctive night sound of the bush. The African cicadas’ loud buzzing song, produced by special organs called “tymbals”, is the loudest insect sound in the world – effectively as loud as a power saw. The male’s song attracts females and sometimes even other males.
Like a big ol’ blast from a large tuba, the hippo’s distinctive grunt and bellow is used to communicate with other hippos. Unlike other animals, the hippo’s unique ability to hold its head partially above water, enables it to send out a call that travels below the surface of the water, and above. Sounds are spread far and wide and express important information like where territory boundaries begin and where they end.
Seeing a hoopoe in the bush is always a lovely sighting. These crested birds with their bright, eye-catching orange and black plumage dazzle with their appearance and sound – yet another nostalgic South African bushveld call. The mellow, soothing “hoop-hoop-hoop” call can be heard across most open woodlands in the country.
It’s not just the animals that make up the gorgeous symphony of the African bush. Those that have ever travelled to this part of the world will know that there is nothing quite like the dramatic sound of big African thunderstorm. Deafeningly loud, intense, and extremely powerful, the cracks of thunder will make you shudder in a mixture of fear and awe: A good reminder of who is in charge when in the presence of nature.
THE WARM MOTSWARI WAKE-UP CALL
Knock, knock. Rise and shine! It’s time for your morning safari as the first light of day begins to dawn. This is a sound you will learn to love and look forward to immensely during your time at Motswari. Hot, steaming cups of coffee and tea await before a new day of safari adventure begins, promising new experiences and new rewards. What more could one possibly want?