Wherever you are this weekend, make sure you switch off your lights for Earth Hour 2018. It’s your chance to experience the wild’s night-time wonders while raising your voice for climate change.

On 24 March from 20:30 to 21:30, people across the globe will celebrate the world’s largest grassroots movement by switching off the lights. Known as Earth Hour, it’s an act of solidarity and an opportunity to focus on nature. All of us on Earth are in some way or form affected by climate change, so show your commitment to help protect our vulnerable planet.

Switch off, Wild fans!

It’s all quite simple – one small gesture makes all the difference. Whether you are enjoying a weekend breakaway in the Kruger National Park, taking in the silence from your stoep in the Cederberg Wilderness Area, spending the night in an enchanting forest treehouse or simply at home, taking part in Earth Hour is not negotiable. Switch off all the lights in your overnight location for one hour – yes, only one hour – and take pride in being part of something bigger.

With climate change comes the overwhelming loss of biodiversity. As passionate travellers to southern Africa’s wild places, we have an undeniable responsibility to protect our natural heritage. Imagine the Kgalagadi with no cheetahs, coastlines with no African penguins, or the Drakensberg’s crisp blue skies with no vultures.

How to spend Earth Hour

You’ll discover there’s a lot to savour when you turn out the lights and turn on your senses…

The night sky

Artificial lights usually outshine the heavenly bodies, so being surrounded by complete darkness – even if only for one hour – offers a great opportunity for stargazing. You may need a bit more time (and help) to identify constellations, because when it is perfectly dark even the fainter stars show up against the sky. For assistance, turn to the star charts of Sky Guide Africa South or try an app such as Sky View, available for Apple and Android. Use the red light setting on your headlight, or secure a piece of red cellophane to a torch, if you want to check something.

Of course, if you are lucky enough to be spending Earth Hour in one of the Wild parks or reserves, you’ll be in the best possible place for stargazing. Binoculars are immensely handy for appreciating the night sky, so don’t pack them away when the sun sets. Some iconic stars to look for are Aldeberan, Betelgeuse, Rigel and the Seven Sisters (Pleiades).

Night-time sounds

Without the drone from the TV or music from the sound system, you’ll be surprised how detailed the soundtrack of the wild is at night. Prick your ears and listen carefully to distinguish the variety of sounds. Just like a full-blown orchestra, there are various players that make up the symphony, from the rhythm section’s frogs and crickets to solo performers such as the fiery-necked night jar. See how many individual calls you can count during Earth Hour.

Nocturnal animals

After dark is the busiest time for a cast of animals ranging from bats and bush babies to honey badgers and porcupine. Even if you are not going on a night drive but just sitting quietly in the rest camp, you may be lucky enough to spot a number of creatures. Once your eyes have adjusted to the dark, listen out for any noises that could alert you to them. Where are those leaves rustling? If it’s in a tree, scan the branches for a genet or civet. If on the ground, keep your eyes peeled for a badger or a bokkie having a late-night snack.

Picture by Gillian Leigh Soames

Picture by Gillian Leigh Soames