Night time in Africa is a time when our ancient fears rise to the surface, a time when our DNA shudders to the thought of when we were part of the natural world and were considered easy prey, but today we can experience the dramas of the night from the safety of a safari vehicle.
A night drive in Botswana is a thrilling experience, showcasing our own survival as a species, where we can now watch from safety scenes that were once our lot. Although night drives are not permitted in the parks and game reserves of Botswana there are plenty of private concessions where this activity is possible.
Nxabega Okavango Delta: We were sitting around the dinner table when I heard the big herd of buffalo that were on the floodplain in front of the camp begin to get restless and then stampede. Soon after the stampede I heard the cry of an animal in distress, mingled with the guttural sounds of exertion.
I was tempted to get the guests into the vehicle and drive to have a look but instead decided to listen to the activity for a while. In the surrounding silence the sounds of the struggle were amplified and after some time of listening I loaded everyone up on to the vehicle and went to investigate what was happening by spotlight.
We found the pride of seven lions in the process of trying to pull down a buffalo cow that was resisting all their efforts. Switching off the light we listened to the sounds and as our eyes acclimatised to the darkness we watched the dark silhouettes as the moved in and out of our partial vision.
It was fascinating but terrifying at the same time, the excitement of the situation mingling with our ancient fears.
There is always the opportunity to view a kill whilst on a night drive in the wilderness, but night drives are mostly an opportunity to see animals that are seldom seen during the day time such as porcupines, civets, genets and a host of bats and nocturnal birds.
There is also something primeval in stopping somewhere in the bush, switching off the motor and listening to the night whilst contemplating the stars of the African night.