Darling, There are Hyenas in Our Tent

Spotted hyena

When you camp you are always cautious about where you keep your food. Typically, in the wilderness like in America, you would hang your food up with rope in a tree. But when you are glamping in rustic tents in a game reserve that is home to the big five, you kind of become a bit nonchalant about food management.

One must always be cautious about food, whether it’s oranges and fruit in your vehicle which elephants will smell from quite a distance, or your T-bone steak left unattended next to the braai (BBQ).

I was caught wanting on a trip in an extremely wild game reserve.  This, in my opinion, was not my fault but purely an inherent problem created by humans feeding wild animals.


a hyena


I arrived at my wild accommodation on a hot and humid summer day. On arrival, warthogs were running calmly around as if almost tame and unconcerned over the potential danger lurking around every corner. They were almost relaxed as if being near people made them safe.

We unpacked our gear in the tent. The tent was elevated two to three feet off the ground on a timber deck with balustrading which had gaps big enough for a wild cat to put its head through. The rustic tent had a double bed and ensuite bathroom to the rear with a small kitchen to the outside on the decked veranda. Now I know this is not camping but the tent’s canvas is all that stops a lion from trying to get to you.

We had electricity and a fridge for our meat and beers to remain ice cold. The scary part was that the fridge was chained down and had several claw and teeth marks all over. This clearly was not the handy work of a squirrel.

Now, this should have been a reason to not keep my beloved evening’s braai (BBQ) necessities here but rather in my vehicle’s cooler box, but I was excited at the thought of returning from an awesome afternoon safari, lighting a fire and cooking some meat with a beer in hand.

It was soon 3 pm; time for our arranged safari drive with our game ranger Jabulani in his open-top game viewer truck. We checked to make sure all zips were closed and secured, and off we went for the afternoon. We were, in fact, more concerned about monkeys getting hold of my wife’s make-up bag.

The game drive was eventful starting with a leopard sighting within eyesight of our tent. We were fortunate to also see elephants, a large pride of lions and numerous other wildlife in the late afternoon light. On our return to our tent, we had to walk down a narrow path, scanning the bushes with my torch for any glowing eyes giving us an early indication of a wild animal.

We were merely 20 feet away from the tent when our torch caught an eye shine peering from the right-hand side of our tent. We froze. The pair of eyes stared us down for what felt like minutes. My wife squeezed my arm tightly knowing not to make a noise almost asking me what do we do.


a Large spotted hyena
Photo by Ilse Orsel

I saw the flicker of a large round ear and knew what we had walked into. “Love, I think we have a Hyena in our tent.” Knowing it was just a hyena, I knew I could get him to move. So I called out “Hey” at the beast, like shouting at a dog. He jumped to the side into the bush and, at that point, all hell broke loose in the tent’s kitchen.

The sound of things falling and being pushed over was horrendous, almost as if a bear was raiding the kitchen. In fact, the hyena had all his friends in there and with his sudden departure, they knew something was up and another four hyenas dispersed on either side of the tent.

We cautiously made our way to the tent and were shocked by the extent of the raid. The fridge had been ripped apart, the contents scattered all over with nothing left. Not even my beers were spared. The beer tins were crushed, and there was no evidence of beer left on the floor. It was all licked up. After cleaning up the mess and attempting to secure our tent, we went to bed on a hungry stomach. Not even a packet of chips/crisps was spared.

That same night, to make things worse, we had an enormous lightning storm and later a tremendous amount of rain. The next morning, things did not get any better. We wanted to go straight to the main lodge to have an awesome buffet breakfast. Money will be well spent.

On route to the lodge, after a one-hour drive, we were stopped in our tracks. The rain from the night had come down so ferociously that a bridge we had to cross was underwater and impassable. With no other route to the lodge, we had to leave the park and find the nearest takeaway.

I learnt one thing that night, keep your food in your car.

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