Last night was a particularly special night for the lucky folk based in Shimoni. Instead of tucking ourselves into beds in our house in the village, we all packed water, first aid kits, roll mats and torches and headed out into Shimoni forest for a campout!
We have done this before, but not since this time last year. The reasons being that during January – March season, there is no chance of rain, and the mosquitoes are few and far between! Any other time of year and one could end up getting rather wet and eaten alive by the biting critters.
We prepared a huge pot of potato salad, bought ourselves two whole chickens, scrubbed our handy homemade grill, and marched out to section 22 of transect 2 to set up. We had been out scouting earlier in the day, and had found a nice open area that didn’t have too much coral rag. We all gathered deadwood off the forest floor for firewood and got the fire going without any trouble. Julien (a volunteer from Portugal) proceeded to cook the chicken to perfection in a lime and chilli marinade!
Once we were all fed and settled, we donned our forest boots and torches and headed out for a night walk! Night walks are one of my favorite things to do in the forest – it is a completely different place at night. The forest is alive with nocturnal creatures; the rustling of small feet in the leaf litter and the night calls of the various animals are all around you, making you strain your eyes into the shadows to look for the telltale reflections of eyes in the torchlight.
We were fortunate to get some awesome sightings of several sunis and a pair of small eared galagos (bushbabies) hopping through the trees. These two animals are the ones most likely to be seen at night, as they are the most abundant nocturnal animals in the forest.
Sunis are tiny antelope, whose shoulders rarely rise above 40cm off the ground. They are primarily nocturnal, and feed on leaves, shoots and fruits on the forest floor. They are very shy creatures, but get stunned in the torchlight, so night walks are the only times you can get a really good look at them. Small eared galagos are one of my favorite animals – relatively large for a bushbaby, with incredibly soft, wooly fur, bushy tails and huge eyes that glow red in torchlight. Apart from being very cute, they are considered to be the closest living representatives of the earliest primates. Their form of locomotion has been retained, and you can see the subtle differences between them and other primates.
Unfortunately we didn’t manage to get any good photos of the animals seen, but it was a great experience for all present. We are going to do this a couple more times in the next couple of months hopefully, to take advantage of the season and to get some good photos of the nocturnal wildlife. We’ll keep you updated (naturally…)