We saw fever trees etched in inky black against the huge African moon and a herd of hartebeest with their sentinels perched on ant hills. Over there, a scattering of gazelle and a waterhole in which the moon was reflected like a large and solitary water lily. We climbed, then turned downhill to a stream bed where we hoped we might see a leopard.
The trees were taller and denser here and multi-shaped. They half encircled another small waterhole on higher ground and we stopped to watch huddled impala drinking and throwing up their heads to listen for the sound of danger. There was a contrast of peace and tension, light and shadow. A nightjar shrieked. Silence mixed with the splash and gurgle of water and the night noises of a hungry Africa.
I looked hard into the moon shadows of the acacia trees and saw a darker shape moving down the trampled mud path to the waterhole. ‘It’s a rhino,’ Guy whispered.
As it came out of the shadows I could see more clearly the thick armour plating of its hide. He wouldn’t be attacked so the animal didn’t have to hesitate or sniff the air. He simply drank from the shimmering pool. We could hear the sucking and sloshing as though water was being slopped from a bucket.
We waited quietly as the Jurassic beast quenched his thirst and we watched the moon rise higher. Silver flooded the waterhole and removed the acacia shadows, darkening others and lighting the rhino’s hide so it shone like metal as he ambled away. Presently a jackal barked shrilly with a suddenness that startled us and a lion roared with the chesty power of Pavarotti. One could almost feel the air tremble, although he wasn’t that close.
He was leading his young pride to drink. We watched them, one, two, three, four young with two older lionesses. The male drank alone while the family stood behind in respect. Once sated, he turned away and gave a cheeky youngster a cuff and a rich growl in passing
The early October night had enough chill in it to cause a shiver. An impala buck, its fine head of horns outlined in the moonlight was standing watching the movement of the lions. It took a few steps towards them and thumped its forelegs on the ground, drumming a warning, then swung swiftly round and cantered away onto the open plain that stretched to the stars on the far horizon. It was time to return to camp. Guy - my alpha male - was hungry!