Pamela MacNaughtan

Our first-night camping in Africa was like most camping experiences. We were at a camp ground, our tents were set up on the grass, near some trees, I could find the bathrooms and the air was fresh and cool in the morning. Bush camping in the Serengeti, however, added some very different elements.

“If you need to make a local or international call in the middle of the night, make sure you shine your light outside your tent first. If you see a lot of shiny eyes, just go back inside for a little bit and check again after a few minutes.” George explained to our group.

Local and International calls are George’s code words for types of bathroom breaks. A local call can be done outside, behind your tent (preferably not behind someone else’s tent) and an international call requires you to walk to the bathroom in the pitch black of night. Normally that would not be an issue, but in the middle of the Serengeti, the last thing you want is a close encounter with a Lion or Hyena when you need to go number 2.

My tent was set-up on at the end of the group, which meant it was close to the road and far from almost everyone. Some of the group joked that my tent-mate Sarah and I would be the first ones to be eaten. Everyone laughed. In the middle of the night, it wasn’t so funny.

I woke up after having a dream about seeing a lion (which looked suspiciously like Scar from the Lion King). It wasn’t an overly scary dream, so I wasn’t in a panic when I woke up. However, after a few minutes of laying in the dark, I noticed a noise coming from outside my tent. At first, I thought it might be a lion (I’m obsessed with lions apparently) and my heart began to beat a little faster. I wanted to look out my tent window, but I was afraid of staring into its eyes, so I didn’t. Instead, I laid there and listened. I then started to hear a kind of scratching noise outside my corner of the tent.

“OMG is there a lion outside playing with my tent?” I thought with a little dread.

I soon figured out that the first noise was not a lion, but Sarah, snoring. The scratching noise continued and so did my imagination.  It was dark outside, I had drunk a litre of water with dinner and now I had to pee.

There was no way that I was going outside. Nope, no way. I heard Sarah stir and asked if she heard the noise. She did but thought it was a bunny (yes, I am aware of the irony) and went back to sleep. I laid on my sleeping bag and waited for it to stop. At 4:45 a.m. I could hear men outside. No doubt it was some of the cooks. I knew George would be waking some of our group up at 5 a.m. so I took a big swallow, opened my tent, shined my light outside and got out. I didn’t look behind the tent, I just walked straight ahead to the small cooking area and waited.

“Pam, it’s early. Why are you up?”

“Oh, I was awake so I got up. I think there might be an animal chewing on the corner of my tent though”. George looked at me like I was crazy.

“Come on, there is no animal chewing on your tent.” George began to walk over to where my tent had been set up and I followed. I had serious doubts about walking around the tent. What is there was something back there? What are we going to do? As it turns out there was nothing back there, not even one footprint (except for ours).

“See, there is nothing back here.”

“George, I heard something scratching or chewing on my tent.”

“You didn’t hear anything, go back to sleep.”


“No, no, go back to sleep.”

Like a child who had woken her parents up in the middle of the night because she thought she saw the Boogie Man, I reluctantly crawled back into my tent and tried to go back to sleep.

Thinking of travelling to Africa?

Traveling in Africa, solo can be a scary thought -especially for solo female travellers. I’m not saying it can’t be done, it can. What I am saying is that there is nothing wrong with joining a group tour.

For 45 days I travelled from Kenya (Nairobi) to Cape Town with Intrepid Travel. This was my very first group travel experience. At first, I wasn’t sure what I had gotten myself into, but as time progressed, I began to relax and fall in love with this type of travel. In fact, I would definitely travel with Intrepid again. 


  • August 12, 2011

    I was waiting for the part at the end when you both walk around the tent and find a big chunk of the tent had been bitten out of it and there was a big lion tooth stuck in the nylon and ahhhhh! Okay, now I think I have the one with the overactive imagination. Anyway, I’m sure it was just a bunny. 🙂

    • August 12, 2011

      Hahaha that’s exactly what my tent mate said! I swear, there WAS a noise and the sound of purring….

  • Chris Walker-Bush

    August 12, 2011

    What an amazing experience. I bet that lengthy delay in departing feels totally worth it now, eh?

  • August 12, 2011

    Haha I would be waking up every time I heard a noise!  What an incredible experience!!!

  • August 15, 2011

    Believe me, I really thought there was one. The fact that it was probably a bunny or something is quite sad. Hahaha


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