I will use today as an example that can pretty much stand for all of our days here as regards sound. But first, as Michael would say, a bit of back story.
You may not be aware of the fact that my hearing isn’t all that great during the day. It’s not all that bad but it isn’t anything to write home about. However, at night, some maternal (me, who has never had kids), hyper-acute hearing switch flips in my brain and, suddenly, I am the bionic woman with ears that can hear through concrete walls. And, not only do I hear every creak of the house and hiccup of a mouse, my brain has to analyze each sound to determine if it presents a threat. In my normal life, this transformation is quite annoying, necessitating the use of earplugs if I want to get any sleep at all. I suppose this nocturnal hyper-acuity would serve me well if I was a mama cheetah on the Serengeti.
This long explanation is in aid of the following: This morning around 4 a.m., I was awakened, earplugs notwithstanding, by the rather loud, weird call of a hyena that was between a couple of our tents. And, so began a day of sounds on the Serengeti.
There doesn’t seem to be a moment when we don’t have the background symphony of chirping, clacking, screeching bird call and buzzing, humming insect noises. Since this is the season of short rains, we also have thunder most afternoons lending a distant rumbling note to the day.
That understory of sound is periodically punctuated with mammalian voices. It might be the low rumble of lions in the far distance or the crunching of bones and ripping of skin as eleven lions feast on a zebra or the very close up sort of moaning of lions as they go about the business of ensuring the future of the species (notice how delicately I put that). Or the grunting of hundreds of wildebeests as they pass by. I think I can safely say that I have heard more varieties of grunting in the past four days than I have in my entire life.
Other mammalian voices are ours: Whispered expressions of awe as we watch a mother cheetah showing her two cubs how to hunt; sighs of relief as the mother wildebeest executes some maneuver that saves her calf from being turned into kitty chow; quiet off-color comments as we watch those lions get it on, so to speak; and compelling stories told around a campfire as dusk falls at the end of another day.
It is magical.