Halloween is here, where we embrace the dark and mysterious. But today we're using it as an opportunity to celebrate a trio of nocturnal species shrouded in superstition.
Protagonists in ancient folklore and linked to witchcraft, hyenas, lions and owls are our chosen souls for this Halloween…
Nighttime is a misunderstood time of day straddling between the gentle evening and sharp morning light. A time that holds many secrets and tales of predator activity, often only physically evident in the morning light.
There is a mysterious magic that happens under the starlit canopy of darkness hanging over the Kruger veld. For what lies beneath this expanse of black?
While we can't see much, we most certainly hear a sliver of what happens in the dead of night. When night falls the wind drops, which means sound only carries further. We hear the cacophony of whooping sounds from hyenas, the desperate contact calling from lions and the delightful sounds of owls breaking the silence. All a bit scary and perfectly fitting for Halloween!
So let's find out the various superstitions surrounding three key species to spot while on safari in the Kruger.
Famous literary genius, Ernest Hemingway, detested hyenas and didn't do much to encourage their worthiness. In ancient African legend, the hyena has heavy connotations with witchcraft. In Tanzania, it is believed that these creatures were actually considered to be a mode of transport for witches.
During the Middle Ages, various groups believed that hyenas used to dig up and consume human corpses!
Let's dispel the myth a bit - hyenas are vital to a reserve roaming with predators and are by no means evil entities. They clean up debris, remove rotting carcasses and thus prevent the spread of a potential disease. They're beautiful, mysterious and fascinating.
Lions are powerful beasts and a much-respected predator. With a roar that reverberates through the land, it's hard not to pay attention to these cats. The white lion, in particular, carries with it many forms of superstition. Believed to be a sacred entity, it is thought to bring good luck to those that see it in the wild.
There are rumours that white lions can see the future and are agents of light. Truth be told, these lions are actually not a rare entity but merely a product of biology. They are leucistic, which means they lack pigmentation in certain areas of their body.
This night time raptor is certainly not short of superstitions and is dripping in lore. In some cultures it is believed that the owl symbolises death, but other cultures believe it is a spirit watching over a warrior of the bushveld. Whatever you choose to believe, the fact is there are many species of owl within the Kruger. They're quite common birds and are by no means eerie in their demeanour.
So, while you're cocooned in your percale linen and guided by the soft light of the fading lanterns outside, you can be rest assured that there is no need to be spooked by the nocturnal life surrounding your chalet. Enjoy Africa as the night protects you while you sleep!