Snake Country

Getting to know the neighbours –  Working toward a stress-free co-existence with snakes

I’m sitting on the pool-deck of a posh but somewhat incongruous mansion situated in an upmarket ‘Bush Camp’ that’s been incorporated into the southern boundary of the Kruger Park, on the banks of the Crocodile River. I was privileged to have been invited to join the R&F who can enjoy this sort of lifestyle, but a number of things have struck me whilst I’ve been here. I know it’s holiday time, but the early morning queues to get into the main park remind me of rush hour in Durban. Under the circumstances and despite the rudeness and impatience of some of the “me first!” visitors, the staff at the entry points remained courteous and helpful – I wouldn’t last 5 minutes in their jobs! Once across the threshold, the drive turns into something akin to a trip through a super-heated Jurassic Park. Every time you slow down or stop to look at something, you get surrounded by other vehicles, bulging with freshly sun-baked gawkers, festooned with binoculars and long-lens cameras, all jostling for best viewing positions whilst simultaneously yelling at you, “what you looking at?” Makes you feel like a magnet in a bag of nails! The animals generally seem to be tolerant of this human circus that visits their home every day, and I’m sure that a well-planned trip, away from the madding crowd, could be very rewarding for those who’re genuinely interested in the bush, rather than for those who’re there to tick the box.

preparing for another quiet day in the African Bush.

Preparing for another quiet day in the African Bush.

As could be expected, the temperatures quickly rose and stayed up in the early forties, making the Banting Diet for rapid weight loss look amateurish by example, especially if you’re in an open game-viewing vehicle, but the animals seem to adapt with ease – sliding down into cool holes or resting under tree canopies. Those who drive around the park at midday, whilst consuming litres of bottled warm water and feverishly casting about for the Big 5, are the ones who come back and tell you they saw nothing.

Coming as I had, from the Camperdown/Cato ‘snake park’ where I’ve lived for over 8 years, I was immediately struck by the dearth of snakes out in the open. I thought this was odd, until the penny dropped. If the ambient temperature at 4.30 in the morning is about 32 degrees C, and rising to 40 plus in the late afternoon, surely there’d be no need to bask? Ordinarily, if they’re intending to hunt or move around, reptiles would heat up by sun-basking or lying on warm roads or rocks, to get their temperatures up to the required levels to enable them to go hunting and to digest their subsequent meals, but here in this environment, they’re there already. It makes sense then, that in the northerly climes, the best time to see snakes out in the open, might actually be in the winter months when, with the colder morning and evening temperatures, there would certainly be a need to mechanically raise the body temperature.

© pat mckrill. 2016
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