I don’t know what it is, but people seem to worry about one creature more than anything else in the African bush, and this fear causes me to have to answer one question more frequently that almost any other: “Are there snakes here?” (well, second only to “why haven’t you got a tan?”). 

It’s a delicate question to always have to answer, as most guests want to hear a resounding “no” emanating from my lips. However, every now and then, there are guests whose dying desire it is to see these legless reptiles, and I have to be honest and say that, like everything else in the bush, there are no guarantees…Well, almost none because Murphy’s Law, the guests’ that least want to see snakes will most likely end up being the ones that see them everywhere! 
It would be a stretch to say that I have a phobia of snakes - I am not scared of them. I just don’t care an awful lot for touching something that would keep my financial advisor busy for a couple of weeks while sorting out payments from my life cover investments. Some people find their thrills in doing just this, but I prefer more audacious actions in life like putting muesli in the bowl before I put the yoghurt in (a true daredevil, I know!). Yet, despite my general lack of fear of these slithering serpents, I discovered I have quite a high-pitched voice box when they find their way into my bedroom! Truth be told, at first, I did think that the slightly cold animal that brushed my skin as I lifted my hat up was a frog, still spurring on an impressive backwards leap. But on seeing that it was a few legs short of a frog, I screamed like a girl and had to call my brave boss to come and remove the little spotted bush snake from my desk.

One of my closest encounters with the serpent-kind though, was on a muggy and dark night while I was out guiding alone without my trusty tracker. Being solo, and with the sun having just set, I thought that it would be best if I stopped and plugged in my spotlight now rather than in the middle of the lion sighting that I was just about to drive into. I climbed out of the Land Rover and walked to the front tracker-seat where the plug point was and began fumbling around in the dark trying to orientate the plug correctly for an effortless insertion. This proved a challenge, but it was probably due to me being distracted by a distinct puffing sound below me. My immediate reaction was one of frustration, as I knew that after completing the increasingly difficult task of plugging a plug into a socket, I would have to change my tyre. I stopped to listen, to see if it was indeed the front-left tyre hissing at me, but the sound of escaping air had stopped?

Thinking it was my imagination I carried on fiddling around with the plug, repositioning my feet as I did so (like that was really going to help me!). As I carried on, the hissing started again, so once more I paused to get a better gauge on its point of origin, but again, the sound disappeared. This was almost as puzzling as trying to work out how to insert a plug into a power outlet. However, ignoring the audio distractions at my feet, I persisted and soon solved my Rubik Cube-esque problem at hand, and then there was light. Armed with a million candles worth of light in my hand, I shone down at the ground to see what was making this sound, and to my horror, it wasn’t a flat tyre, but rather something a bit more scaly, and a load more dangerous: a puff adder! It was also in that instant that I finally understood just how they got their name. Pulling myself away from that amazing epiphany, I jumped to action as I realised that it was right between my feet. I was wearing sandals and unlike snakes and ladders, snakes and sandals are seldom a good combination. Knowing full well that puff adders are the fastest striking snakes in a world, and that my feet are some of the slowest moving in the world, I knew that my “puff adder dance” would have to be a lot quicker and more elegant than my previously displayed leopard dance (that’s a story for another day) in order to avoid something that would no doubt be more painful than watching Twilight.
Now seriously motivated, I made a move that the King of Pop himself would have been proud of! I instantly shifted my feet as far away as I could from this highly venomous snake and to the relative safety of the darkness surrounding my vehicle.

This is usually the part of the story when I use my hands to show just how massive this snake was and I guess, for my sake, it is not a bad thing that you can’t see just how far apart I am holding my hands. This story would probably sound far less enthralling if you thought that the distance between the tips of my index fingers was probably no more than the distance between the left edge of this page and this full stop. So instead, I am going to leave the size of this serpent up to your imagination as I would really hate for the truth to get in the way and ruin a good story!





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