Let nature take your mind on holiday

Snake Country by Pat McKrill

While thinking of seeing some snakes up in the Kruger National Park, the saying, “hope springs eternal”, came to mind.

My trip up to the Crocodile River was great,18 hours of jousting on SA roads aside, and while I enjoyed those stress-free eight days immensely, blow me down, not a snake in sight!

I saw spoor on the morning walks, but nothing further. The folks I was training in snake awareness said they’d seen a few recently, mainly spotted bush snakes (like the one I mentioned last month), but certainly nothing more.

Pre-spring greenery

The bush up in the north is very dry, but even so, there was evidence of new pre-spring greenery coming through, not a hosepipe in sight. How does nature do that?

I was staying with friends who live on one of the gated estates across the river from the park. They have long since binned any thoughts of flower-filled gardens with rolling lawns. Apart from the rules prohibiting such nonsense, the visiting warthogs, hares and buck have put paid to that idea.

This puff adder and spotted bush snake, below, demonstrate the power of camouflage.

Looking over the river into the park, watching giraffe and elephant browsing, was an education, similar I suppose to watching someone eating Weet-Bix rather than a green salad. Undoubtedly the nutrients are there to some degree, but along with every other browser and grazer in the vicinity, they’d need to work hard at every meal to maintain condition.

After dark activity

There was lots of insect activity, plenty of rodent spoor, from shrews upward, and a jam-packed diversity of birdlife – evidence, perhaps, of the effect of another local rule – no pesticides, herbicides, weedicides etc.

With this abundance of available nutrients, there would undoubtedly have been snake activity, but as the morning evidence suggested, mainly after dark. Wandering around at night, torch in hand, seeking out the solitary hunters while making myself available for any hungry cat in the vicinity would not have been a clever idea.

Now read: Embers of a campfire: Pioneering adventures in the wilds of Botswana

During my daily ritual of parking off in a camp chair under some bushes near the banks of the river, I was reminded a hundred times over of the power of camouflage. Once I’d settled in with the binos, recorder and beer box at the ready, the bush started to come alive and “things” began to move.

Subtle transformations

Non-descript black blotches up in the sparsely leaved trees suddenly flew off to other branches, three tons of solid grey rock slowly and surreptitiously moved across in the tree line in front of me, transforming itself as it went, into a lone elephant bull in musth. An arbitrarily placed log on the sandbank gently raised itself on all fours and waddled its way towards the water below, the long leguaan tongue lazily taking in scent for future reference. Two large white brackets ( ) that had been lying motionless in the grass rose and followed a waterbuck to the water.

Do it, folks! Get out there and let nature take your mind on holiday.

Contact Pat: ● Cell: 083 303 6958 ● Email: herpet@eastcoast.co.za

Main picture: Judah Legge/Unsplash