Embarking on an African safari is a sensory journey like no other. Beyond the mesmerizing landscapes and wildlife, the symphony of sounds that fills the air adds a whole new dimension to your adventure. From the thunderous roars to the delicate whispers of the wilderness, here are 10 African safari sounds from the bushveld that you should listen out for:
The lion's roar needs no introduction. The deep, rumbling resonance sends shivers down your spine and evokes a mix of fear and awe, a reminder that you're in the heart of the wild. Lions tend to roar in a very characteristic manner, starting with a few deep, long roars that trail off into a series of shorter ones. They most often roar at night; the sound, which can be heard from a distance of 8 kilometers (5.0 mi), is used to advertise the animal's presence and to communicate with other lions and lionesses.
Where will I hear this sound? Lions are found in various African countries, including Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and more. They inhabit savannahs and grasslands where prey is abundant, such as the Serengeti in Tanzania or Kruger National Park in South Africa.
2. African Thunderstorm
If you've been fortunate enough to witness an African thunderstorm, you know that it's an experience that can't be replicated. The sudden clash of lightning, the dramatic roll of thunder, and the rush of rain. Sudden, dramatic, powerful, deafeningly loud, and gone before you know it!
Where will I hear this sound? African thunderstorms are a common occurrence across much of the continent, particularly during the rainy seasons.
3. Fish Eagle
The African Fish Eagle's haunting cry is the embodiment of Africa's waterways. Its distinctive "weee-ah, hyo-hyo" or "heee-ah, heeah-heeah" call resonates near lakes and rivers. As these majestic raptors soar over water bodies, their calls blend seamlessly with the rippling currents below.
Where can I hear this sound? The haunting call of the African Fish Eagle can be heard near water bodies such as lakes, rivers, and wetlands. Countries like Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, and Uganda offer opportunities to hear this distinctive call.
As the sun sets over the African bushveld, a delicate chorus of crickets begins, providing the melodic backdrop for evening gatherings around the BBQ or braai. The sound emitted by male crickets is commonly referred to as chirping. Interestingly, crickets chirp at different rates depending on their species and the temperature of their environment. Most species chirp at higher rates the higher the temperature is. What an interesting way to gauge the temperature if there is no thermometer on hand!
Where can I hear this sound? Crickets serenade the African nights in various regions, from East Africa's Serengeti and Maasai Mara to Southern Africa's Kruger National Park and Okavango Delta.
5. Fiery-Necked Nightjar
As the moon graces the sky, the fiery-necked nightjar takes the stage with its distinctive "good Lord deliver us" call described by birders. The call is particularly audible through the full moon phase, less so on darker nights. Many of you will have encountered the Fiery-necked Nightjar on your evening game drives. It is very often found sitting on road surfaces being blinded by oncoming vehicle headlights, “sitting tight” until the very last second, before flying off in a disorientated manner.
Where can I hear this sound? These birds can be found in wooded and open habitats across much of sub-Saharan Africa. They are commonly heard during night drives and walks in game reserves and national parks.
Another distinctive night sound of the African bush. Many people who have tried to hold conversations around a campfire will attest to the fact that the African cicada produces the loudest insect sound in the world! With sounds reaching volumes comparable to power saws, they craft an intricate auditory tapestry that becomes synonymous with the African night.
Where can I hear this sound? Cicadas are widespread throughout Africa and can be heard in many countries, especially during warm months.
Hippos produce a loud hiss, snort, or distinctive grunt that sounds like a blast from a tuba. Hippopotamuses appear to communicate verbally, through grunts and bellows, and it is thought that they may practice echolocation, but the purpose of these vocalizations is currently unknown. Hippos have the unique ability to hold their head partially above the water and send out a cry that travels through both water and air; hippos above and under water will respond.
Where can I hear this sound? Hippos inhabit water bodies such as rivers, lakes, and waterholes. Places like the Luangwa River in Zambia, Chobe River in Botswana, and Lake Victoria in Uganda are known for their hippopotamus populations.
8. Black Backed Jackal
Although the sound of a jackal may not be one you can immediately call to mind, the memories of it will return as soon as your ear is again tuned into the African bushveld. The sounds include yelling, yelping, woofing, whining, growling and cackling. When calling to other jackals, they emit an abrupt yelp followed by a succession of shorter yelps. Those in the same family will answer each other's calls, while ignoring those of strangers. When threatened by predators, they yell loudly.
Where can I hear this sound? These adaptable creatures are found across a range of habitats, including grasslands and savannahs. You can hear their calls in countries like South Africa, Namibia, and Botswana.
9. Spotted Hyena
The spotted hyena is also known as the laughing hyena because the famous chatter actually sounds like a human laughing hysterically. Hyenas have very distinctive vocalizations, with over 11 different sounds recorded. This “laugh” is used during times of nervous excitement or submission to a dominant hyena. The "whoop" is a call that can be heard from far away and is used to find cubs, claim territory, or bring the clan together. Groans and squeals are used to greet each other. Other sounds include grunting, growling, and yelling. Besides communicating with each other, hyenas will use their calls and scent marks to mark their territory.
Where can I hear this sound? Spotted hyenas thrive in a variety of habitats, from savannahs to forests. Countries with healthy hyena populations include Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa.
10. Hadeda Ibis
The Hadeda Ibis has a distinctively loud, penetrating and recognisable haa-haa-haa-de-dah call that is often heard when the birds are flying or when startled, hence the name, Hadeda. This distinctive call punctuates the beginning of African days, making every dawn a special symphony.
Where can I hear this sound? You can hear their distinctive calls in places like South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Kenya, particularly near water bodies and grasslands.