Snake in the house!
24 Jan 2016
|Some facts about Imfolozi and Hluhluwe Park
In around 95,000 hectares there are:
800 white rhino
200 black rhino
93 wild dog
1000 approx warthog
After Samantha's account of our bush walk yesterday we have debated endlessly the whys and wherefores of undertaking such an activity. It has undoubtedly left Samantha shaken and it is worth me adding a few words of this incident from my perspective.
The walk started at about 6.45am and we wandered through the bush without seeing anything for about an hour. This perhaps gave us a false sense of security that we probably wouldn't see anything at all. Sometimes the bush was thick where you couldn't see further than the next 20m or so and had to peer round and through bushes and trees. In other places it was more open where visibility was up to several hundred metres.
Barry was bringing up the rear of our single file line with Samantha in second position behind Guy. We were given some sounds and hand signals before we started as we had to be quiet with no talking. A couple of slaps on the thigh indicated that you needed to stop and after a while we heard a slap from Barry. His very old Trans Africa boots that he has had since the 1980s were falling apart. He needed to tie his laces round the heel to hold it on. This happened 4 times as each heel and then the whole sole of both boots gradually fell apart. Poor Barry. He was left walking on soleless boots with little more protection than moccasins. Given that most of the bush is covered in thick thorn bushes, he had a problem.
Now if you don't know, black rhino are renowned for being particularly bad tempered and if they charge you, they charge you. From Guy's experience with white rhino if you alarm them they won't charge at you directly but will veer off in a different direction. We were stopping at points of interest and after about an hour Guy examined some footprints and declared that elephant and black rhino had very recently been along the track we were following. I said to Barry "That's ramped up the excitement level somewhat". Within a couple of minutes we came across a rhino some 30 metres ahead of us displaying its rear towards us. Guy couldn't immediately identify whether it was a black or white rhino but eventually concluded it was white. We back tracked and skirted round it. After visiting the hippo pool (which was the intended purpose of the walk) where we saw virtually nothing but a couple of ears sticking up out of the water, we saw some black rhino some 500 metres further down the dried out river bed and so we retreated away in the opposite direction. This took us away from our intended path back to Gqoyeni which was to have been the dried out river bed. When we came across another rhino, this time identified as white, it was standing with its back to us about 20 metres away from us but in a more open place with small bushes that offered little or no protection. I think there was another smaller rhino with it. After looking at it for about 15 to 30 seconds it turned its head round and saw us. Well that was it. It turned round fully and without hesitation started to charge towards us. Guy immediately slapped the butt of his rifle twice and shouted at it to make it back off but it was having none of it. Those of us at the back of the line ran for our lives and I remember thinking that it would be a good idea to split up in different directions and so I ran for the largest bush I could find. The rhino narrowly missed Guy by less than a metre although I saw none of this as I wasn't looking back but intent on getting away. This was where I think it was unwise with hindsight for Samantha to be second in the line as it meant that she was the next target. Somehow she ran away from the rest of us and I have no idea how close she came to the beast but it was certainly closer than I was. Thankfully, the two rhino disappeared away into the bush and we heard no more from them.
After this incident Samantha was extremely upset and nervous as she has recounted.
Guy was lucky to get away without at least serious injury. This whole incident does beg the question that had any of us encountered serious injury I am fairly sure that we wouldn't have been covered by insurance. Bush walks are fairly common in certain African countries and I am sure we were just unlucky to have had such a close encounter. But we shouldn't forget that we are entering the animals own territory and should only do it on their terms. At the time we were upwind of the rhino which may have had something to do with the alarm it suddenly showed. There had also been a call not far awayfrom an impala or other type of buck that could have alarmed the rhino and made it extra sensitive and charge in our direction.
The rest of the day we went out on another game drive and were lucky enough to see a cheetah as well as countless rhino, giraffe, zebra, elephant and buffalo. On our return we had a braai (barbecue) and chilled out playing cards with Guy who did seem a bit philosophical and apologetic for getting us into this position.
Today there was further excitement. After returning from an early morning game drive on which we saw a lion and a pack of wild dogs (quite a rare sighting) we were greeted with the news that there was a black mamba snake in the kitchen of our lodge resting in a cupboard used for towels. What is it about us? Guy reckons we have had one of the most eventful weekends in the lodge and we just attract excitement. Other people have come there and seen very little. It had probably been there for at least a week curled up in that cupboard. We later learned from Guy, who we saw at Hilltop in Hhuhluwe (pronounced 'shishlouis') that the snake had been captured and was about 2 metres long. They are extremely dangerous, can move quickly and it you are bitten you have about 45 minutes in which to have anti-venom administered or you are dead. A sobering thought particularly as Gel had been delving around in the cupboard just the night before looking for a drying up cloth! Guy had driven a distance of about 50km to release the snake into the wild ostensibly because the snake catcher had had to be dropped off there. Secretly, we thought he had come to Hilltop to find us because of the girls. We found him having an ice cream and he knew we were going there for lunch but it was nice to hear the end of the snake incident.
I hasten to add that the photos I have added today were taken from game drives and not close up encounters on foot!
We have now driven to St Lucia on the coast about 40km from Imfolozi; more of which tomorrow.