Sunday, September 5, 2010

Spiders & Snakes

Almost every time I'm due to go on an African safari someone asks "Gosh! Isn't that dangerous? All those snakes, scorpions and spiders!" And I think to myself You do know that you're living in Australia don't you? Home of eight out of the top ten deadliest snakes in the world. Lurking in your own back yard are taipans, brown snakes, death adders, tiger snakes and king browns for example, not to mention red backs and funnel web spiders, mouse spiders, white tailed spiders and other creepy crawlies that grow to the size of a small sheep and who's venom is potent enough to wipe out half the population of Sydney with in single bite.

What on earth makes people think that African bities are more dangerous than their Australian counterparts? It's true that our Aussie scorpions are wimps by comparison, but even the scorpions in Africa give you fair warning that they are dangerous. The really naughty ones have tiny pincers and thick tails whereas the less venomous variety have big pincers and thin tails. In any case in all my time on safari I've only ever seen two scorpions and there's no reason to worry about them provided you don't go shoving your fingers into holes in the ground or scrabbling about under rocks.

There are snakes that are best avoided throughout Africa. These include the black mamba (strangely never black)- a big, bad tempered so and so, but I've only ever seen three of them in 35 years of African travel. Also the boomslang is worth giving a wide berth. It is particularly venomous but is rear-fanged and so deadly bites are very unlikely. How many times have I seen one? Zero, not a single one. Puff adders are not very nice either. They're a bit like our death adders, slow to move out of the way but they strike like greased lightening. Again, I've never seen one. Well, a few specimens squashed on roads but never a live one. Mozambique spitting cobras are good fun too. They can spray venom with extraordinary accuracy up to eight feet. Never seen one.

The fact is that African snakes, like their Aussie cousins will, on the whole get out of your way long before you see them. They feel the vibrations of your footfalls and slither off to a safer spot long before they become a danger to you.

African spiders are not a serious threat either, though some can give you a painful bite none are likely to do any lasting damage and you are no more likely to encounter them in the African bush than you are here. Some are quite impressive though. The baboon spider is so called because it's as big and hairy as a baboon. Actually I made that up, I've no idea why they're called baboon spiders, but they are pretty big. However, despite their appearance they are about as deadly as a rabbit.

So if it's creepy crawlies that are putting you off going on safari, stop worrying. You're more likely to encounter something deadly the next time you venture into your own back garden.

Okavango Wildlife Safari, Botswana.

$2989 per person twin share. 11 days Livingstone to Livingstone land only. Departs 9 March 2011.

Witness the incredible bio-diversity of the Okavango and Chobe National Park. Spend two nights on a houseboat on the Okavango River in Namibia before moving on to Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana, followed by Savute and Chobe National Park. This is a bird watchers paradise. Get to within a trunks length of an old bull elephant and listen to the lions roaring at night. This tour is a must for lovers of wildlife and wide open spaces. There are two games drives per day while in the Game Reserves and National Parks and transport is in open 4x4 game viewing vehicles.

Accommodation is in en-suite boathouse cabins, private campsites with walk-in tents, camp beds with all linen provided, hotels and lodges. Most meals are also included.

For more information phone me - Peter Emery on 0449 689 447 or email me at

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