RED MOONS AND CREME CARAMEL
Evening is upon us, and I enter the main lounge area – scanning across and making a quick check that all is in order for dinner and arriving guests. Tables are set, candles are lit and the full moon has risen – round, voluptuous and illuminated. The watering hole and the immediate surrounding area are easily visible – you don’t even need a torch on a night like this I think to myself. The knowledgeable Mr. Simba who has been part of the Bailey family for over 30 years (8 of which have been here at Beho Beho) – whispers quietly that there will be an eclipse tonight. Mmmm, I think – here we are in the middle of the African bush cut off from all forms of media to update us on the daily goings on of the outside world and Mr. Simba knows that tonight at 8:30PM there will be an eclipse!
Guests arrive and we enjoy pre-dinner drinks and then dinner commences – roast duck with orange sauce for main course – Yum! And just as Mr. Simba predicted at 8:23 (to be exact) a sinister-looking shadow creeps over the corner of the moon. A hum of curiosity and excitement ensues and the dinner conversation is drawn to great things such as moons and stars, burning gases, giant astronomical bodies and why Pluto is not longer a planet! And in the sluggish and leisurely pace of an African land snail the earth’s shadow moves over the full moon before our astonished eyes. Over delicious dessert of crème caramel we watch it still – this phenomenal shadow crawling across the full moon – stealing her light minute by minute and leaving her unusually crimson.
We are hypnotised by this incredible event – a total lunar eclipse when the sun, Earth and moon are almost exactly in line, with the moon and sun on opposite sides of our home planet. Our treasured earth shadows the full moon and sunlight passing through the Earth’s atmosphere gives the lunar surface a deep reddish hue. A fragrant blend of Tanzanian tea fills the air and we sip it looking skywards at the impressive theatrical performance of mother nature and her astronomical bodies. Contemplating our universe and unfathomable eternity that stretches beyond. The surrounding bush and Beho Beho hills previously illuminated are now thrown into eerie darkness. Here in Tanzania, in the southern hemisphere we are have front row seats to see the eclipse, which won’t happen again until September 2015. For those in the UK, the lunar eclipse will fall on the shortest day of the year – the winter solstice – for the first time since 1638! This unusual event is called a ‘selenehelion’! In British skies the full moon should have appeared dimmer than usual followed by the morning skies turning a dark shade of red as the moon moves into the Earth’s shadow during this rare lunar eclipse.
And just as one would think our luck could not get any better, a breeding herd of elephants move stealthily in the supernatural darkness gathering around the watering hole with the rusty red moon above them. A lone hyena skirts around the side of the main dining – enjoying this sudden darkness to hide his approach. And Callum, son to Ian and Suzanne our current guests grabs his camera and tripods are bought from rooms and we take turns trying to capture this incredible spectacle. Next, we give the resident camp telescopes a go. It appears more tricky than one would think. Searching for a large red moon in a sea of darkness and twinkling stars – with a high zoom proved to be surprisingly difficult. ‘The service is excellent here – true commitment’, chuckled Ian, ‘it took Kimberley 25 minutes to find us the moon!’ Eventually we locate this sneaky celestial body and we gather around the viewing telescope ‘oowing’ and ‘aahing’ at the burnt orange moon, with it’s now red-rimmed craters. Soon sleep lays heavily on our eyelids and our beds beckon us. Fatigued from an eventful evening packed with excitement, mystery and wonder we return to our rooms – to sleep and dream of fanciful and exotic things such as red moons and crème caramel.