The bite of a black mamba snake will kill a human in as little as 20 minutes. In fact, they are so deadly that the chances of getting anti-venom in time to prevent death are virtually nil in the bushveld, according to our rangers. Now, I’m not ordinarily afraid of snakes but this startling information definitely got my attention. I went to Africa worried about malaria and spiders but honestly, I hadn’t given snakes a single thought. The stories that followed raised my anxiety even further.
Several weeks earlier, Uyai, our tracker, was looking at tracks on the left side of the vehicle and our ranger, JD, was watching along the right. Neither noticed the black mamba in the middle of the road in front of them. When Uyai did see it, he jumped out of the tracker seat on the front of the vehicle and the black mamba struck the middle of the hood. JD referred to that story as “the time I almost got Uyai killed.” Another story involved a self-important ranger from another lodge who, bragging about his prowess with snakes, picked up a black mamba to show off his skill and was promptly bitten. The ranger died a horrific death within 20 minutes while the guests watched.
After hearing these stories a day or two earlier, imagine our reaction when Uyai nimbly jumped from the tracker seat as JD abruptly halted the safari truck. The birds in the tree about 25 feet ahead of us were letting loose a cacophony of chatter. JD explained, “There’s a black mamba somewhere nearby. The birds are telling us. We’ll move ahead slowly and carefully. Everyone be still and quiet.” I sat frozen in wide-eyed terror as we crept forward under the tree that I was sure held a coiled black mamba, ready to strike as we passed underneath. I think we all breathed a collective sigh of relief when the tree was safely behind us and our guides indicated the danger had passed.
This experience served as an important reminder that we were truly in a wild, untamed place and the outstanding staff at Vuyani were there to protect us as much or more than to educate or entertain us.