Without a doubt, snakes have the worst PR of any creature – for no good reason as they are extremely polite and well mannered and do their very best to live in harmony with us here. We would be amazed to know how many individuals and different species there are around the camp but we always consider it a real privilege to have an encounter with one. In 20 years we have only had 2 incidents with snakes, both of which turned out well.
A friend of mine came down from Phalaborwa one afternoon along with his fiancé and her friend to join us on a game drive. They were running late and only arrived at the camp in time for a quick “comfort break” before climbing on board the LandRover. The 2 ladies rushed to our public facilities and Karen decided to make use of the “Gents’’ to speed up the process. She ran in, throwing open the door, only to shove a Mfezi (Mozambique Spitting Cobra) out of the way with the door. Naturally, the serpent took offence to this and retaliated with a fine spray of venom, aimed very accurately at her eyes. With the tilt of her head, the venom only reached one eye and she reacted by screaming and stepping backwards out of the room.
We rushed around, summed up the situation and quickly took her to the kitchen, where we proceeded to bathe her eye out with milk. We popped an eye patch on her and off she went on the safari with a slightly piratical look about her. She was rewarded with some awesome sightings too, albeit with only one eye! By the end of the safari, we removed the patch and her eyesight was fine.
All was well that ended well!
My favourite story occurred after lunch. There was a crew from Eskom, the power utility company, busy in the area replacing poles. As our guests were retiring to their rooms to get ready for the afternoon safari, we spotted a fellow staggering up the road towards us, appearing quite drunk. What made it even more peculiar was that he wasn’t looking towards the camp, put rather off to the distance.
Intrigued, I strolled down to investigate. I stopped the staggering young man, who virtually ignored me. I asked him how he was and he replied “Oom, ‘n slang het my gepik” (Uncle, I have been bitten by a snake) and he was looking for his Supervisor. As he blurted this out, he began to sink to his knees.
I helped him to stumble his way to the Lodge and we settled him on a Pool Lounger. By now, he was in a pretty poor state, shivering uncontrollably and breathing rapidly. We prepared ourselves to begin administering CPR, should his symptoms require it. We discovered that he had been standing in a hole that he had dug and suddenly he felt a burning on the one cheek of his buttocks. Sure enough, there was a single puncture wound, which showed that the snake, who must have come out of a side tunnel, had struck and bitten him but only one fang had got him.
Different species of snakes have various types of toxic venom so we didn’t know what we were dealing with but it became apparent that we were dealing with a neurotoxic venom so it was probably administered by a Mamba or a Cobra. By now, there was nothing we could do to treat it, as he had exerted himself and the venom would have been well dispersed. But we soon worked out that the shaking was from him sobbing from fear and the panting was from his exertion and the heat. We did our best to calm him down and by now we were pretty well convinced that he would be OK as he was a fit young male and it was going to take more than a Mamba to bring him down.
His Supervisor pitched up and we loaded him into the vehicle and off to hospital, where he spent the night under observation and was discharged the following morning, none the worse for wear!