Off the Beaten Track
Sounds of the Bush
with Derek & Sarah Solomon
May 2012

Late April/early May was scheduled as a very special time in the bush for us – 10 days of intensive recording with sound guru Dr Bernie Krause and his wife Kat. Unfortunately due to a debilitating back injury and surgery they had to cancel but their friends Jim & Linda Kuhns from California decided to join us anyway at Rock Fig Safari Lodge in the Timbavati Game Reserve on the edge of Kruger National Park followed by Mashatu Game Reserve in eastern Botswana (one of our favourite destinations).

It was in part a celebration of the publication of Bernie’s fantastic new book “The Great Animal Orchestra”. Following the title of the book we were able to introduce Jim & Linda as well as the guides and trackers at the lodges to Africa’s great animal orchestra via individual headphones connected to our microphones and recorder. Sitting as quietly as possible on the safari vehicle listening to the crescendo of the dawn chorus amplified well beyond our normal hearing is a phenomenal experience.

Crested Francolins crow loudly while it is still dark and a Spotted Hyaena whoops before it retires to bed. As the sky starts to clear the sound of breaking branches tells us that elephants are all around us and a host of birds begin their song – doves, orioles, barbets, Go-away-birds, flycatchers as well as a Fork-tailed Drongo loudly mimicking various other species including a Pearl-spotted Owlet. In the distance a lion roars quickly followed by a leopard with its coughing call. For 30 minutes we would sit enthralled until the need to stretch our legs caught up with everyone.

Then as we drove around the two reserves we would stop to take photos or quickly don headphones to listen into another sound – the rumble of elephant at a waterhole, a musth bull sucking up water and then forcibly squirting it into his mouth (listen to this on YouTube), Saddle-billed Storks, Hamerkops and Grey Herons squabbling over fishing rights at a small pool, or the awesome roar of lions close to the microphones.

The lions were definitely a highlight at Rock Fig – we found a pride with cubs on a buffalo carcass on our first evening followed by a mating pair which we bumped into several times over the 3 days there.

At Mashatu the elephants were amazing – they were around every corner, drinking, feeding, babies playing…

Nature’s Orchestra will now become a standard feature on all of our private safaris, hooking everyone up to the microphones via individual headphones. Not only the opportunity to listen to the music of the bush, but the unique opportunity to learn about the behaviours related to these sounds makes these safaris an unforgettable experience.

Bernie’s book The Great Animal Orchestra is a ‘must’ for everyone interested in nature’s music and is available online via Amazon or hopefully through one of your favourite booksellers. (Little Brown & Co, New York ISBN 978-0-316-08687-5).

In between listening to the orchestra there was plenty of time for photography and here are a few more of our favourites.

Best wishes,
Derek & Sarah