Upcoming week…A terrifying past experiences comes to mind…

One of several giraffes we spotted last night when dropping Rita and Gerhard back at the Hornbill house.  The partial moon is shown in the photo.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

What are you looking at, Ms. Kudu?

There was an internet outage during the night and this morning but it was repaired and we’re back on.  I certainly didn’t want to miss posting again after my 36-hour illness when I was too ill to prepare a post.

I’m feeling much better today after somewhat of a sluggish day yesterday.  As always, last night we dined at Jabula with Rita and Gerhard for another excellent meal with enjoyable conversation and ambiance.

We often see people we know while there and the interaction between all of us is fun and uplifting.  Last night, we were particularly reminded of how little time is left until we’ll be leaving Marloth Park in a mere 32 days.  We’ve begun to say our goodbyes.

Warthogs aren’t interested in eating the fallen marula fruit.

Today, we’re busy working on organizing things around the house for our upcoming house guests, Linda and Ken, who’ll arrive tomorrow afternoon.  We’ve moved Rita’s birthday party to Wednesday when its supposed to be cooler.  

It’s simply too hot to cook right now.  Today will be almost 40C, (104F) once again, with awful humidity and forecasts for Monday and Tuesday don’t look much better.  Of course, the weather could change between now an Wednesday but, we’re committed to sticking with the newly planned date.

This mongoose is only interested in cracking this egg.

Last night, on the return drive from Jabula with Rita and Gerhard with us in the car, we spotted several giraffes near their house on Hornbill and also in their garden.  What a lovely sight to see in the evening!  Thus, the above main photo.

We had many amazing experiences at that house five years ago which prompted the balance of today’s story about a scary event that occurred in January 2014.  

Sometimes it takes a little ingenuity to crack an egg, including banging it on the ground or a tree stump.

Please see below:

It was a little over five years ago as in January that Tom had the worst scare of his life.  We were seated on the veranda at the Hornbill house while both working on our laptops while watching for possible visiting wildlife.

The sightings had been excellent during the first month at the house and our expectations were high.  At that point in time, no wildlife encounters particularly scared us although we always remained diligent and cautious.  

When kudus and warthogs are in the garden, bushbucks don’t have much chance of eating any pellets when they’re easily scared off.  Tom holds the container of pellets for her to ensure she gets a few bites.
Suddenly we both heard a “plop’ and began looking around to see what it possibly could have been.  In a serious tone, Tom said, “Get up slowly and move to your left!”

Curious that I am,  without giving it a thought, I quickly jerked to my right.  Bad move. Lying on the ground, a short distance from Tom’s bare feet lay a snake…not a huge snake but a snake none the less.

We’ve since learned a bit about snakes after attending snake school last March, that size means nothing when it comes to venomous snakes. A huge snake can be relatively harmless and a small snake can be deadly.
I’ll feed gentle Ms. Bushbuck from my hand, one of few instances in which we do so.

This scene transpired in a matter of seconds although it felt much longer.  Tom was seated in a chair, much closer to the snake while I was at the table a short distance from him.

The moment I realized what we had before us, I said, ”Get the camera!” This was and still is a normal response of mine.  

Handsome male impala in the park.

In a flash, we both saw the snake, staring at Tom, flaring his hood and instantly we knew it was some sort of cobra.  What type of cobra was it?  We didn’t have a clue. 

(Anyone living or staying in Marloth Park for extended periods should attend snake school.  Had we known then what we know now, we would have responded differently). 

Later I realized how dangerous it was to be bending down to take photos after Tom had somehow managed to get it into a corner of the veranda next to a big stingy mop where it stayed until the snake handlers arrived 10 minutes after I’d made the call.

An ibis tucked away in the vegetation in the garden.

Click here for the balance of the story with several photos of the snake, albeit blurry from my shaking hands.

Tonight will be our first night on the veranda since last Wednesday and we’re hoping to see many of our wildlife friends, now beginning to return after the long holiday season.


Have a wonderful Sunday, wherever you may be!

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Photo from one year ago today, January 13, 2018:

We walked to another part of Buenos Aires that day, looking for a jeweler who could replace Tom’s watch battery which we never found.  It took us over an hour to walk back to the Palermo district, the location of our hotel.  For more city photos, please click here.

We’re back!…First ever missed post due to illness…

Big Daddy stopping by a few weeks ago to nibble on the lucerne we had delivered from Daisy’s Den.  Now the bush is much greener after recent rains and the wildlife seem less interested in the lucerne.

 “Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Oxpeckers eating ticks and fleas off the hide of a kudu.

Update on yesterday’s missing post:  On Thursday night when it was still very hot, we all decided to forego our usual Thursday night buffet dinner at Ngwenya.  Instead, since Rita and Gerhard had never been there, we decided to go to Phumula, a nearby restaurant we’ve visited a few times since we arrived last February.  

We didn’t love the food at the local lodge and restaurant but it was always fresh and acceptable and they had aircon in the main bar/dining area.  It was a good choice.  I didn’t drink much wine, only having a few glasses of light dry rose with ice in the hot weather.  I ordered beef, veg, and salad, nothing too exciting but proved to be fine although my meat was way overdone.  I prefer it rare.  It was medium but tender so I didn’t complain.  

The four of us were so deeply engrossed in our conversations, not having seen each other in a week, we didn’t pay much attention to the food.  We’d arrived at 1700 hours, (5:00 pm) and were out the door by 2030 hours, (8:30 pm).

Once back at the house, which was as hot as an oven, we decided the spend the rest of the evening watching “America’s Got Talent” on my laptop in air-conditioned comfort in the bedroom. 

Most of the wildlife groom themselves quite well.  Other than warthogs, they seldom appear dirty.

During the second episode I dozed off for a few minutes and Tom awakened me.  A nap wasn’t good before going to bed for the night which would tend to make it hard to fall asleep later.  I awoke from his gentle nudge with a shudder.  A wave of nausea washed over me that literally made me jump up and run to the bathroom.  As soon as my feet hit the floor, I felt so dizzy I could hardly stand.

Something was terribly wrong.  Was it food poisoning?  What could it be?  It was 2200 hours, (10:00 pm) and I knew I had a long horrid night ahead of me.  I had never in my life felt so nauseated and dizzy.  

No doubt, I put Tom through hell with me when I was up and down all night, stumbling my way to the bathroom only to (gross, be prepared) have the dry heaves.  I hadn’t puked in 20 years nor was I going to now.

I even found myself groaning and moaning (how disgusting) when the dizziness and nausea were almost more than I could bear.  What was going on?  The night was so long.  I literally watched the clock on my phone waiting for it to be over.  Things are always worse at night, aren’t they?

As much as the kudus eat the vegetation, they still enjoy pellets and an occasional marula that falls to the ground from the tree in our garden.

At certain points throughout the night,  I imagined having to go to the hospital in Nelspruit, over an hour’s drive away. But I couldn’t imagine sitting up and riding in the car.   It was entirely impossible to sit up.  The room was spinning.

After a while, I took a Tylenol (aka Paracetamol or Panadol, here in SA).  It didn’t help at all.  I knew I just had to wait it out.  

In the morning, I contacted Rita.  She’d eaten the same meal I had but hadn’t suffered any consequences. Thus, it wasn’t food poisoning.  More than anything I wanted to know what was going on and why I was feeling this way.  I was too sick to look it up on my laptop.

In the morning, still as awfully ill, I managed to shower and get into a comfy nightdress, heading straight back to bed.  Tom brought me my usual first-thing-in-the-morning lemon water and a large mug of iced Sprite Zero.  No doubt, drinking a lot of fluids was important, regardless of the source of this scourge.

Kudus are good at making woeful eye contact indicating they are looking for pellets.

During the day, I had so much on my mind.  On Monday evening, we had Rita’s birthday dinner party planned at our house with an extensive menu for 10.  On Monday afternoon, longtime friends Linda and Ken were arriving to spend the upcoming week with us, staying upstairs in the house.

The weather predictions for Sunday and Monday were over-the-top, expected to be well over 40C, (104F).  The thought of cooking all that food in such high temperatures was daunting particularly if I wasn’t going to be fully recovered from this awful bout of nausea and dizziness.

On Thursday night, unprompted by me, Rita suggested we move the party to later in the week when cooler weather was predicted.  This thought stuck in my mind all day yesterday when I trashed about in bed in a dreadful dizzying state.

I didn’t eat a morsel of food all day long.  Tom had taken a container of great leftovers out of the freezer for his dinner with enough should I decide to eat.  By 1800 hours, (6:00 pm) I knew eating was vital to my recovery.  Not eating alone can cause nausea and dizziness.  

Recently, we’ve seen less helmeted guinea fowl in the garden.  With recent rains, they may have found better areas to search for grubs and worms than in a dry garden.

Tom made each of us a bowl of the food, heated in the microwave and we ate in air-conditioned comfort. It was hard to sit up to eat so I managed small bites, using a spoon to get it down.  Much to my surprise, I ate most of the food, leaving only about 25% which I managed to finish a few hours late.  I began to feel a little better.

We watched a few episodes of the show and by 2200 hours (10:00 pm), I took an over-the-counter Somnil and slept straight through for a full eight hours.  I awoke this morning, weak and bleary-eyed and the nausea and dizziness were almost completely gone.

Today will be a resting day but at least I can write today’s post with my head up.  That was the first time out of 2359 posts, over a period of 6 years, 9 months, 29 days, that I failed to do a post due to illness. We didn’t begin posting daily until sometime in the first year.  

Thus, there’s been 2495 days past overall since we started doing the post on March 14, 2012, which may be found here at this link.  But we didn’t leave Minnesota until October 31, 2012, with the link for that day’s post found here.

Frank and The Mrs. and some friends stopped by for a visit.  Frank is on the far right, the Mrs. on the left.

I deliberated over whether or not I should go into the details of my 36-hour illness but thought perhaps someone out there has experienced something similar and could offer some insight.  Please feel free to write a comment at the end of this post or write to me via email.

Had I had a heart condition or some other serious type of condition, surely I would have sought medical assistance.  But, I must admit, I’ve had similar occurrences in years past, although not quite as severe as on this occasion, and recovered just fine.  I’ve had recent medical exams and blood tests and all is fine.  Go figure.

Tonight, we have plans to go to Jabula with Rita and Gerhard for dinner.  Since it is so outrageously hot, I have no desire to cook a meal.  If I spend the rest of the day resting and recovering, I’m planning on being able to go out to dinner.  

Traveling the world while taking good care of one’s health is no guaranty one won’t get sick or encounter situations such as this.  Will I ever know what caused this?  Probably not.  But, all I can do is move forward and pray this never happens again on a travel day!

Be well.

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Photo from one year ago today, January 12, 2018:

Chef Ramsey would be proud of this perfectly cooked medium rare 800 gram (28 ounces) sirloin steak at La Cabrera Restaurant in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The ribeyes looked good but have more fat and Tom prefers less fat on his meat.  For more great food photos, please click here.

Yikes….Venomous snake at Jabula, as we walked up the steps!…Juan, snake handler to the rescue…

Twig snake, also known as vine snake was on the railing at Jabula Lodge and Restaurant as we walked up the steps to the restaurant.  See story below.

 “Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

A praying mantis stopped by for a visit this morning.  After it walked on the veranda table, it landed on Tom and then landed on me.  Friendly little fellow.

When Uschi and Evan suggested the four of us get together for dinner at Jabula Lodge and Restaurant last night we were thrilled to have the opportunity to spend another evening with this lovely couple.


They suggested we meet at 6:30 but in our usual style we planned to arrive by 1715 hours (5:15 pm) in order to have an opportunity to chat with owners Dawn, Leon and assistant Lyn at the comfortable bar.  

Juan, snake handler, captured the snake, placing it in this container and releasing it in Lionspruit where other captured venomous snakes are sent to live out their lives.

We parked the red car in our usual spot, fairly close to the stairway entrance to the restaurant.  Clumsy me, I’m always a little tentative on the “open” wood staircase up to the restaurant and carefully watch my step with Tom behind me.  


When approaching the steps, a guest of the resort and one staff members hollered, “Look out!  There’s a snake on the railing!  Neither of us panicked.  Instead, we searched the railing for the culprit and waited to see what was going to transpire.

Young zebra in the garden.

Had no one alerted us, we easily would have been in striking distance of the deadly venomous snake, a twig, also known as a vine snake.  Here’s some information on these dangerous creatures from this site:


“This perfectly-camouflaged tree-living snake is seldom seen because of its excellent camouflage and habit of remaining very still in low shrubs, observing the ground below for passing lizards and snakes. Birds often mob this snake and it will inflate its neck with its bright orange tongue flickering – this lead to the incorrect assumption that they lure birds closer with their tongue. It is extremely placid but, if provoked, will inflate its neck and strike viciously. Bites are rare and most inflicted on snake handlers.


Like the Boomslang, the venom of this snake is haemotoxic affecting the blood clotting mechanism and causing uncontrolled bleeding. There is no antivenom for the venom of this snake and although a few fatalities have been reported, none were in South Africa.”

We’re treasuring every moment with the wildlife knowing once the holidaymakers arrive we’ll have considerably fewer visitors until well into January.

The hotel guest grabbed the swimming pool net and tried to capture the snake…not so smart.  That didn’t work and was definitely foolhardy. A degree of commotion ensued while Dawn contacted the young Juan, who’s fast becoming the best snake handler in Marloth Park.


In the interim, we gingerly climbed partway up the steps in order to take the above photo of the snake as it politely posed for us sticking out her pink forked tongue.  Nice.

When I didn’t see Little on the veranda, he knocked over the chair where I sit when he visits.  Determined Little, trying to get my attention.  It worked!

Juan arrived within 10 minutes and in moments captured the snake and safely placed it into a plastic container.  From there, he’d take it to Lionspruit (the game reserve within Marloth Park) and release it.  There are no residences in Lionspruit making this an ideal spot to transfer captured snakes or other venomous creatures.


We had a chance to congratulate Juan on his excellent snake handling skills.  He attended snake school with us many months ago and now he is a volunteer snake handler.  Glad we didn’t go down that road!

Pellets and ice cold carrots were on the menu on a very hot day.  He’s so exhausted in the heat he lays down to dine.

After the commotion died down and Juan was on his way, we entered the bar and engaged in enthusiastic discussions with staff and guests over the excitement we all experienced in seeing this scary snake.  


One might think that locals are used to venomous snakes but many are equally apprehensive about them as us visitors. There’s no such thing as “getting used to” the risk of encountering a snake that may be deadly.

The evening commenced in its usual playful manner.  We’ve seldom encountered such a fun bar anywhere in the world, even in our old lives.  The African atmosphere, the cozy lighting, the friendly staff and of course, good friends, great food and service, along with our good friends Dawn and Leon, make it a very special time for us.

Giraffe on the side of the road on our way to Jabula.

I sipped on one extra light wine cooler while Tom had his usual brandy and Sprite Zero.  In no time at all Uschi and Evan arrived and they too were delighted to sit at the bar as the lively conversation ensued for the remainder of the evening.


Finally, we ordered our meals and when the food was just about ready we wandered outside to the veranda to dine.  At different points during our meal and after Dawn and Leon joined us the four of us for more great chatter, laughter and good times.



We didn’t walk out the door until close to 2200 hrs (10:00 pm), late for an evening out to dinner in this sleepy community.  Within an hour I was fast asleep, the cortisone no longer in my system and sleep no longer alluding me.  

Another giraffe on the road in the evening.

When I awoke this morning and still had 80% battery left on my phone, I knew I’d slept well.  When I can’t sleep I read books, play games or read news on my phone which I’d totally avoiding last night.  I feel like a new person today.


Tonight, we’re off to Ngwenya for river viewing and the buffet dinner.  Rita and Gerhard won’t be returning for a few more days so we’ll be off on our own.  We always enjoy time with friends but being “just the two of us” isn’t so bad either.


May your Thursday be pleasant and enjoyable, whatever you decide to do.


Today’s expected high temp? 37C (98F)…A refreshing break from yesterday’s  
40C (104F).  

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Photo from one year ago today, December 6, 2017:

A band playing on the beach in Arica, Chile.  For more photos, please click here.

Part 2…Yikes…We attended a full-day venomous snake handling course…Scary, but highly educational…

 Black Mambas are only black inside their mouths, not on their sleek skin.  They are considered one of the most venomous and dangerous fast-moving snakes in the world. Chris, our instructor held the Black Mamba as we took this photo. Tom handled one of these as shown below.  No, thanks, for me!


“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

During yesterday’s drive through Marloth Park searching for photo ops, we spotted this Hornbill, one of our favorite birds in the area. 

There are a known 184 species of snakes in South Africa.  In years past 151 species had been identified but now with the use of DNA, additional species have been discovered.

Obviously, not all snakes are venomous.  As for this area, referred to as the “lowveld,” 60% of those species are found.  The lowveld is described as follows from this site: The Lowveld is the name given to two areas that lie at an elevation of between 500 and 2,000 feet (150 and 600 meters) above sea level. One area is in the South African provinces of Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Swaziland, and the other is in southeastern Zimbabwe. Both are underlain largely by the soft sediments and basaltic lavas of the Karoo System and by loose gravels. They have been extensively intruded by granites. Other resistant metamorphic rocks also occur; these commonly appear as low ridges or what seem to be archipelagoes of island mountains. The higher western margins of both areas testify to the degree of erosion resulting from the flow of rivers running east or southeast.”

Tom was using the grabbers to grasp the highly venonmous Snouted Cobra.

In South Africa, you have a greater chance of being struck by lightning than being bitten by a snake.  Nearly all bites are on the extremities.  Annually, between 24 and 37, out of 100,000 population are bitten by snakes.  The mortality rate is between 1% and 2%, resulting in an approximate 98% survival rate.

With these statistics, its evident the likelihood of dying from a snake bite is rare.  However, in most cases, bites occur by accident (stepping on a snake), a surprise encounter while hiking and, when walking on one’s property and, by other chance encounters. 

 Tom bending over to grasp the tail of the Snouted Cobra, keeping the head down in the grass, in order to place the snake in the container.

Many snake bites could be prevented by the proper response when they are discovered.  First off, snakes have no ears resulting in total deafness.  Instead, they respond keenly to vibrations.  That fact is why we’ve always heard when one has a close encounter with a snake, DON’T MOVE…STAND COMPLETELY STILL!  That still holds true today.

What would determine a close encounter? It may be different for many snakes, depending on their striking distance.  To be safe, if a snake is found within your immediate space, don’t try to guess their striking distance.  Instead, STAND PERFECTLY STILL and wait for it to slither away. 

When “capturing” the Black Mamba it is imperative to immobilize the head close to the ground and raise the tail.  Tom managed to do this while it was desperately attempting to escape.  The Black Mamba is the fastest snake on the planet.

If a snake doesn’t sense ANY vibration,  generally it will move away.  Obviously, if a snake is in another room or a distant area, get away as quickly as possible securing your space in a closed area where it can’t enter.  Chris explained, “Don’t bother to stand still if the snake is in the living room and you are in the kitchen!  Just get away as quickly as possible away from the direction the snake is moving.

If a person resides in an area where there are many snakes, it’s wise to have an emergency number available in order to have the snake removed from inside your property.  If it’s in your yard or another outdoor area it will move on…steer clear in the interim.


In Marloth Park, we can call Snake Removal at the following numbers: John Webb, 079 778 5359 or 071 480 6453 or Daniel Louw, 082 574 0186 or Field Security at 082 828 1043.

After over 16 years of snake handling experience, Chris didn’t hesitate to handle the deadly Black Mamba.

In the event of a snake bite there are several vital steps to consider:

1. Immediately call Field Security at 082 828 1043 to arrange for the quickest means of transportation to a medical facility with anti-venom which may be by ambulance or helicopter.  Also, if no response call, Securicon Lowveld at 082 567 2350 or 086 111 1728.
2.  Don’t attempt to “catch” or take a photo of the snake.  This could result in being bit additionally.  Immediate medical care is more important than the type of snake. 
3.  Don’t drive yourself or have others drive you to a medical facility. Typically, trained emergency response staff has means of treating your symptoms en route to an appropriate hospital which ultimately can keep you alive until you arrive. (continued below photo)

Its only through years of training and experience that Chris can handle this dangerous snake with such skill

4.  Do not “cut and suck” the bite wound.  This has been proven to be totally ineffective.
5.  Don’t panic – Although it is impossible to stay emotionally calm, one must attempt to stay physically calm.  The more the bite victim moves about, the faster the venom moves throughout their bloodstream.
6.  There’s no benefit to using heat or ice.
7.  Do not use a tourniquet unless you are three or four hours from medical care and then, it’s done so as a last resort.

A Black Mamba doesn’t have black skin as most assume.  Only the interior of its mouth is pitch black.

There are two types of anti-venom used in South Africa today:

  • Polyvalent which contains antibodies of several types of snakes and is effective for most venomous snake bites.
  • Monovalent which contains antibodies for only one type of snake in South Africa – the Boomslang.
Chris and Tom were all smiles with the Black Mamba.  I’m glad my job was to take photos not handle the snakes, although I did take the classroom course and the test. 

Oftentimes, once the patient is in the hospital, the medical staff will immediately start a variety of life-extending procedures while they wait to determine if anti-venom is necessary. A small percentage of patients are allergic to the anti-venom which may result in severe anaphylaxis, which can be more deadly than the snake venom itself and may lead to death.

A the end of the course around 4:00 om, the Black Mamba was elongated while Chris held its mouth in place.

 It’s easy to become terrified when reading this information but, for all of us in areas where snake bites are a possibility, it’s imperative to know.  As laypersons, we cannot guaranty all of the information provided here today and yesterday would ensure safety from venomous snake bites. 



Please seek further information or attempt to educate yourself to the best of your ability by attending a course such as we’ve presented over these past few days or, other resources that may be available in your area.  For the lowveld, contact, Lowveld Venom Suppliers at 082 372 3350, by email at reptile@mweb.co.za or at their website: http://www.lowveldvs.co.za.
Marloth Park Honorary Ranger Sandra took a Facebook “live” video during the “hands-on” portion of the course.

Our special thanks to Chris and his staff and Marloth Park Honorary Ranger Sandra, who facilitated an extraordinary experience we’ll never forget and have been excited to share with our worldwide readers.

In October, 2013 in Kenya,  Tom handled several non-venomous snakes  which may found here.


In the event you missed yesterday’s Part 1 of this story, please click here.

Have a safe and bountiful day!

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Photo from one year ago today, March 13, 2018:

Bob, our amazing landlord and new friend came running to tell us the Kookarburros were on his veranda.  We couldn’t believe our eyes for this up close view of these huge beautiful birds.  Within a week they were coming to visit us, eating ground beef out of my hand. For more photos as we settled in to Fairlight, Australia, please click here.

Part 1…Yikes…We attended a full-day venomous snake handling course…Scary, but highly educational…

Puff Adders are commonly seen in Marloth Park.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

On Saturday morning, before leaving for the full-day Venomous Snake Capture and Handling Course, we had a total of 22 visitors in the yard including 13 kudus, 6 warthogs and 3 bushbucks.  In order to be on time for our classes, we had to leave while they were still there.

On Saturday, we headed to the Marloth Park Municipality Offices boardroom at Henk van Rooyen Park to attend the Venomous Snake Capture and Handling Course being offered by highly qualified and experienced snake handler, Chris Hobkirk of Lowveld Venom Supplier and his staff.

This is an example of a nonvenomous snake mimicking the venomous Puff Adder.  It is a baby Rhombic (common ) Egg Eater, harmless, not a Puff Adder. 

The event was beautifully orchestrated by Marloth Park Honorary Ranger Sandra Miler Dill-Franzen who coincidentally lives two doors down the road from us.  A few days earlier we’d dropped off payment for our participation in the course at a cost of ZAR 950 (US $80.55) per person.  There were a total of 18 trainees.

When placing a snake into a container, it’s imperative the container includes newspaper or some type of scraps which may prevent the snake from “jumping out.”  When they see they have a place to hide, they may be more cooperative.

Why did we choose to take this course?  We weren’t necessarily considering becoming officially certified volunteer snake handlers who take calls to remove snakes from resident’s homes. 

Chris is an excellent presenter both in content and in interspersing humor to keep the audience engaged.  The five hours we spent in the classroom learning the information and taking a test (no results yet) flew by.  With my short attention span, I was pleasantly surprised by the easy flow of the interesting information.

However, based on our long-term stay in Africa, we felt such an education would prove to be highly beneficial in the event we encountered snakes while we’re on the continent.

Chris showed this slide as an illustration that there are countless varieties of venom.

Four years ago while in Marloth Park for three months, we had a face-to-face encounter with a venomous Mozambique Spitting Cobra as shown in this post.

Chris’s company, Lowveld Venom Suppliers is involved in many aspects of snake handling, including milking the venom to be used in manufacturing antivenom.

After attending this important course, we now realize we handled that snake encounter on the veranda in a dangerous manner, particularly me, who bent down to take photos, not realizing it was a spitting snake. Whew!  We sure dodged a bullet!  Lesson learned!

Bottled water, snacks and lunch were provided throughout the day.  Since I had prepared a meal for our dinner that night, we chose not to eat anything.

That doesn’t mean we can’t take photos of snakes that “visit” but at least now we know how to identify them.  We would have proceeded with considerably more caution had we known. Knowledge is everything, as we all well know

I was one of only two females in the classroom.

One of the most frightening aspects for most tourists coming to Africa is their fear of snakes and insects. We both have the fear of insects under control and are able to identify many venomous insects we may encounter.  The goal here in Africa is not to kill insects, all of which play a vital role in the ecosystem.

As usual, Tom read every word of the “hold harmless” agreement we both had to sign in order to participate in the course.

Snakes, on the other hand, may terrify visitors to the point they won’t hesitate to drive over them on the road or… kill them when found in or near their holiday homes.  This human behavior can result in loss of life if handled carelessly or incorrectly.

Tom, preparing to capture a Puff Adder, one of the most dangerous snakes in Africa.“The Puff Adder (Bitis arietans) is a venomous viper snake species found in African savannah and grasslands. The species is probably the most common and widespread snake in the continent.  When disturbed the snake will coil into a defensive S-shaped posture and hiss loudly, hence its common name “Puff adder“. This is used as a warning signal, it’s best not to ignore it, you really don’t want to find out why. “

Snakes, like all other creatures in the wild, play a valuable role in nature and regardless of their ability to protect themselves using their deadly toxins in the process, this wonderful course opened our eyes to understand that snakes are not intentionally seeking to bite humans, a misconception many may possess.

Although Puff Adders have a reputation for moving slowly, generally they won’t bite unless agitated as is the case with most venomous snakes.  Often people are bitten from accidentally stepping on them or encountering them unexpectedly…or foolishly trying to handle them without proper knowledge.

In Chris’s detailed classroom course, that kept us inside in air-conditioned comfort until 2:00 pm (with periodic breaks and an included lunch), we learned more about snakes than we ever imagined possible in one day.  The snake-handling portion of the course was conducted outdoors on the grounds from 2:00 to 4:00 pm. 

Chris handling another highly venomous snake, the Boomslang.  Males are green and females are brown.  However, it’s nearly impossible to determine the sex of most other snakes when both genders are typically identical in appearance. “The Boomslang (Dispholidus typus) is an extremely dangerous, venomous snake species found in sub-Saharan Africa in the central and southern regions of the continent. The boomslang is most abundant in Botswana, Swaziland, Namibia, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe, but the species has been reported as far north as southern Chad and Nigeria, and as far east as eastern Guinea.”  However, they are found here in South Africa as well.

Not only did we learn about the anatomy of a variety of snakes, we learned about the various types of toxins which include: neurotoxic – nerve acting venom; cytotoxic – cell destroying venom; haemotoxic – blood acting venom.

Tom and Jim stood contemplated their next “capture.”  To the far right is our new friend Pat who was overseeing a voter registration booth in the background.

Any bites from venomous snakes (or sprays from spitting cobras) may be deadly, especially without immediate medical care.  Chris explained that recently, a victim of a black mamba snake bite was dead in five minutes.  However, many have survived with medical care initiated within 30 minutes of the bite.


Chris shared a first-hand story when years ago, he was bitten by a Jameson’s Mamba and lives to share the story after utilizing his fast thinking and diverse knowledge to steer him in the direction of a successful recovery coupled with exceptional medical care.  But, this isn’t always the case.

All of these bins contained crumpled newspapers and were clearly labeled as to the type of snake.  The first two he showed us were not venomous but one must assume all snakes are venomous.  Some non-venomous snakes will “imitate” venomous snakes in appearance and behavior in an attempt to ward off predators.  Clever snakes!

Are we less fearful of snakes after the course?  In some ways, yes, especially in realizing snakes generally are fearful of us and just want to be left alone.  More on this in tomorrow’s post including what we learned to do in the event of encountering a venomous snake and, when being bitten, much of which is entirely different than many of us may have assumed. 

We’ll share the various types of antivenom and their potential effects, both good and bad.  Plus, we have a shocking video we made of a black mamba!  Please check back!

German proverb:  “Look before you leap, for snakes among sweet flowers do creep.”

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Photo from one year ago today, March 12, 2017:

View of Sydney from the ship on disembarkation day.  We were headed to drop off our bags and head to immigration to deal with our “illegal” status.  For more, please click here.

Venomous snakes and snake bites in Australia…First aid for snake bites information…A personal venomous snake encounter 17 months ago…

The most venomous Australian snake: the Inland Taipan or Fierce Snake
(Not our photo).  The Inland Taipan or Fierce Snake, reported as the most venomous snake in Australia.

Yesterday’s Sydney Herald newspaper posted this story we’d also seen on the news throughout the day about a Fremantle woman who was apparently bitten by a snake while on a walk on the beachfront esplanade, a paved boardwalk generally free of high grass and brush.

After being bit she walked home to her husband showing him the bite, an ambulance was called.  She later died at the hospital. (The hospital is yet to confirm that her death is a result of a snake bite until after an autopsy is performed).  She had a penetration mark on her foot.  Had she not walked home instead immediately calling for an ambulance, she may be alive today.  We extend our deepest condolences to her family.

Then again, we don’t know all the facts and can only surmise based on what’s being reported in the news.  Apparently, from what we’ve read online snakes are often seen in the Perth metro area especially as the weather warms. 


The second most venomous Australian snake: the Eastern Brown Snake
(Not our photo).  Eastern Brown Snake, purported second most venomous snake in Australia.

Paying attention by diligently watching for snakes in high risk areas has been on our radar these past several years especially after spending so much time in Africa where 3,529 people die each year (or many more unreported) from snakebites as opposed to considerably less fatalities in Australia:

Australian Snake Bites
 

“In Australia there are about 3,000 snake bites per year, of which 200 to 500 receive anti-venom; on average one or two will prove fatal. About half the deaths are due to bites from the brown snake; the rest mostly from tiger snake, taipan and death adder. Some deaths are sudden, however in fact it is uncommon to die within four hours of a snake bite.”
 


From the World Health Organization (WHO):

Envenoming resulting from snake bites is a particularly important public health problem in rural areas of tropical and subtropical countries situated in Africa, Asia, Oceania and Latin America. A recent study estimates that at least 421,000 envenomings and 20,000 deaths occur worldwide from snakebite each year, but warns that these figures may be as high as 1,841,000 envenomings and 94,000 deaths. The highest burden of snakebites is in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa.

Snake bite is primarily a problem of the poorer rural populations in these regions and affects mainly those involved in subsistence farming activities. Poor access to health services in these settings and, in some instances, a scarcity of antivenom, often leads to poor outcomes and considerable morbidity and mortality. Many victims fail to reach hospital in time or seek medical care after a considerable delay because they first seek treatment from traditional healers. Some even die before reaching hospital. Hospital statistics on snakebites therefore underestimate the true burden.”

With our second highest worldwide readership at this time from Australia, (the first highest from the US), we decided it was important to post this snake bite information from Dr. Struan K. Sutherland, gleaned from published university papers.  This comprehensive report appears to be the most highly informational and detailed we’ve found in Australia.

If only one Australian or citizen of other countries learns how to respond from a snake bite from reading this post, our post was well worth the time and effort.  For our readers in areas with low risk of snake bites, we’ll be back tomorrow with a more generalized post.

Included in this report is first aid for snake bites as follows and also includes more photos of venomous snakes in Australia:

First Aid for Snake Bites:
 
“Do NOT wash the area of the bite or try to suck out the venom!

It is extremely important to retain traces of venom for use with venom identification kits.

Do NOT incise or cut the bite, or apply a high torniquet!

Cutting or incising the bite won’t help. High torniquets are ineffective and can be fatal if released.

Stop lymphatic spread – bandage firmly, splint and immobilise!

The “pressure-immobilisation” technique is currently recommended by the Australian Resuscitation Council, the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists.

The lymphatic system is responsible for systemic spread of most venoms. This can be reduced by the application of a firm bandage (as firm as you would put on a sprained ankle) over a folded pad placed over the bitten area. While firm, it should not be so tight that it stops blood flow to the limb or to congests the veins.

Start bandaging directly over the bitten area, ensuing that the pressure over the bite is firm and even. If you have enough bandage you can extend towards more central parts of the body, to delay spread of any venom that has already started to move centrally. A pressure dressing should be applied even if the bite is on the victims trunk or torso.

Immobility is best attained by application of a splint or sling, using a bandage or whatever to hand to absolutely minimise all limb movement, reassurance and immobilisation (eg, putting the patient on a stretcher). Where possible, bring transportation to the patient (rather then vice versa). Don’t allow the victim to walk or move a limb. Walking should be prevented.

The pressure-immobilisation approach is simple, safe and will not cause iatrogenic tissue damage (ie, from incision, injection, freezing or arterial torniquets – all of which are ineffective).

See the AVRU site for more details of bandaging techniques.
This poster from thefirstaidshop.com.au is worth keeping.
Bites to the head, neck, and back are a special problem – firm pressure should be applied locally if possible.

Removal of the bandage will be associated with rapid systemic spread. Hence ALWAYS wait until the patient is in a fully-equipped medical treatment area before bandage removal is attempted.

Do NOT cut or excise the area or apply an arterial torniquet! Both these measures are ineffective and may make the situation worse.
Joris Wijnker’s Snakebite Productions has more information on envenomation and he can supply a suitable first aid kit and booklet.”

Had the above mentioned woman seen this information at some point, she may be alive today. Walking home increased her heart rate and could easily have contributed to having the venom flow through her bloodstream more quickly.  The patient should be immobilized until emergency professionals arrive on the scene. 

The number to call in Australia for emergency assistance is triple zero…000
A Tiger Snake
(Not our photo).  The Tiger Snake.

While we lived in Africa for nine months, much of which was spent in areas with some of the world most venomous snakes are found, we made every attempt to educate ourselves immediately upon arrival. 

An important aspect to snake safety is STAY AWAY.  Many snakes will not provoke an attack and often bite when aggravated or stepped on.  Many reported fatalities are attributed to foolishly trying to kill or handle a snake.

The number to call in Australia if you find a snake in your yard or home is Wildcare Helpline: (08) 9474 9055

One may think we’ve had little exposure to venomous snakes.  However, we actually had a personal encounter with the extremely dangerous Mozambique Spitting Cobra in South Africa that fell from the ceiling on our veranda landing next to Tom’s bare feet while we were sitting near each other busily distracted while working on our laptops.

For our personal story and photos of a Mozambique Spitting Cobra experience on our veranda, please click here.

Over these past few days, we’ve focused on recent news stories we’ve gleaned from TV news, all relevant in our travels in one way or another.  Soon, in less than three weeks, we’ll be living in Fiji without a TV and be reliant upon online news. We both have auto flash messaging that pop up on our laptops from various news sources worldwide, enabling us to stay well informed.

When traveling the world, we’ve found it vital to stay informed as to world affairs, including political unrest, wars, natural disasters, health related events, weather related issues and financial chaos as in what recently occurred in Greece, all of which may have a huge impact on our travel to a specific location.

We continue to exercise caution and practicality interspersed with a ongoing passion for a certain degree of excitement and adventure commensurate with our interests, abilities and desires as we continue to explore the world.

Stay tuned for more…

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Photo from one year ago today, August 19, 2014:

The busy streets in South Kensington made us thrilled that we could travel almost everywhere we wanted to go on foot.  For more details, please click here.

Horrifying visitor!..Biggest scare of Tom’s life!…Postponement of today’s intended post to tell about this frightening experience!…

 

These yellow lines were from the portable clothesline located in the corner of the veranda where the Mozambique Spitting Cobra was heading. Little did I know that this snake has the ability to spit venom as far as 10 feet, 3 meters into the eyes of its victim. Hands shaking, I took this blurry photo standing only 3 feet, 1 meter, from the snake.

No words can express the look of terror on Tom’s face when this Mozambique Spitting Cobra, shown in these photos, slithered toward his bare feet as we sat on the veranda yesterday around noon. I was sitting at the table approximately three feet, about one meter, from where Tom spotted the dangerous snake.  

This is the corner where the snake headed to hide.

Where did that come from?  Were we so busy looking for animals in the yard that we failed to look down near our own feet?

It had come within inches (centimeters) of his bare feet. Later, we discovered that this type of snake presented less of a risk of biting than “spitting into one’s eyes” possibly blinding or killing the victim.

Without a moment to think he bolted out of his chair while warning me of the location of the snake, so close to his bare feet. Looking in the wrong direction, I had trouble spotting it for a few seconds. Immediately, I reminded Tom to put on his shoes. At that point, neither of us realized what type of snake it was.

When it comes to Mozambique Spitting Cobras, their size was insignificant compared to the dangerous, life-threatening venom they inflict upon their victim.  This snake was approximately 1.5 to 2 feet long, 45 to 60 cm.

As it hissed and raised it’s suddenly wide face at us, we instantly knew it was a Cobra, unsure if it was a Spitting Cobra. A few nights ago, we’d watched an episode of The Amazing Race showing the participants eating cooked Cobra as one of their challenges, while traveling through Indonesia. 

During the show, there was a live cobra on display in a glassed enclosed box. Neither of us gave it much of a thought while watching the show, except to observe the shape of the head when half of its body was raised in defense mode, ready to strike.

The head of the snake was in the grabbers, not in the hand of the security guy.  He was very cautious and had obviously handled these snakes in the past.

We’ve all seen photos, watched TV shows and movies, or caged cobras in a zoo. But in person? Not so much.

Well, folks, there we were on the veranda as an angry Mozambique (the country only a short drive from here) Spitting Cobra slithered its way to a corner near the house, not toward the driveway or garden. Tom grabbed the long-handled pool net in an effort to steer it away from the house. How horrifying it would be if it somehow got inside! But how much more horrifying it would be if it attacked Tom!

My biggest fear was Tom getting bit so I kept warning him to stay away. You know how guys like to take charge in a crisis, right? This was no time for heroism, my dear husband. 

The snake was close to the door to enter the house. I was determined to get inside to call Field Security, whom we were instructed to call for any type of emergency, including snakes. Gingerly, I maneuvered inside the house while Tom managed the snake. This was definitely one of those emergencies worthy of calling Field Security!

The snake wrapped itself around the grabber while its head was still clamped.  I cringed when the security guy got his hand this close.  By no means, was he careless, but even he was surprised and jumped back when the snake jumped out of the bucket after it was placed inside.

Digging through the instruction notebook Louise and Danie left for us, it took only a few seconds to find the phone number and place the call. Giving them our address, they explained that they were on their way.  

We could have gone inside the house and let the snake maneuver to his liking, but we wanted it GONE! GONE! GONE!

Using the pole and net, Tom kept it cornered while we waited. It was curled up ready to strike, laying underneath a stringy mop. The pole Tom was using was no less than 10 feet long, three-plus meters, which he carefully managed as we waited long 10 minutes for Field Security to arrive.

Carrying a “snake grabber,” one of the two security guys arrived ready to remove the snake. Moving the mop off the snake in the corner, the security guy jumped back stating loudly, “That’s a Mozambique Spitting Cobra! It’s very dangerous!” 

We both stepped back while he and his co-worker (who was carrying a large plastic bucket with a lid) readied themselves to grab the snake. Of course, I mentioned, “Please let me take a photo once you have it secured.” My camera was already in hand. They also proceeded to take a photo with their phones.

As soon as they placed the snake into the bucket, it jumped back out!  We all let out a spontaneous, “Oooh!” Luckily, their reflexes were quick. After a few more attempts they got the snake back into the bucket with the lid firmly in place.

I asked them some questions, such as, “Where the snake will be deposited and how many of these snakes have they removed lately?”  The snake would be deposited near the Crocodile River. (Oh. We’re going there again tonight)! This was the second Mozambique Spitting Cobra they’d removed from a house in Marloth Park so far this week! That wasn’t very comforting.

In addition, they answered a few more of my questions regarding how likely it is this type of snake would enter the house? Answer: very likely. And also, how far can this snake “spit?” Answer: up to 10 feet, three meters. 

Then the scarier questions came, such as:  How likely is this snake to blind a person. He answered, “If you’re lucky!” That wasn’t very comforting either.

After they left, Tom, who’d put on his shoes, stated, “That was the biggest scare of my life.” It hadn’t scared me as much as the black Centipede that he found a few weeks ago on the wall near the bathroom, only feet from our bed. That really freaked me out. None the less, the snake was scary.  

Then again, we are in Africa, in the bush. Wildlife is all around us. Whoever said “safari luck” was only for the animals we love to see. Perhaps “safari luck” includes the scary ones too!  

At least now, when I walk down the long driveway each morning to leave a trail of pellets for the warthogs (it works), I won’t be thinking of the lion that’s loose in the neighborhood. Instead, I’ll be watching more diligently for snakes!

On a more cheerful note, this baby tree frog stopped by today, one of several we’ve seen the past few days.  Is it possible these are the product of the earlier of the two white foam nests hanging over our pool?  More on that later as we continue to watch.

Note: Today, we’d intended to share the fun zebra video and story which now will be posted tomorrow, Saturday, January 11th. 

 

Reptiles from Kenya…Snakes and more…Phython for Tom…See the photos!…

This African Chameleon, variety unknown, is winking her/his left eye for the photo! Neither of us hesitated to handle this non-poisonous creature. Check out the funny little mouth!

On Wednesday afternoon, an enthusiastic resort staff person approached us while on our chaise lounges inviting us to a show at 5:30 pm by the pool, a reptile show. Let’s face it. We love wildlife, so I suppose reptiles fall into that category.   With neither of us squeamish about reptiles, provided they aren’t poisonous, we couldn’t wait for the show.
Arriving promptly, we grabbed the best seats available while waiting for the other guests to arrive. The looks on the faces of many of the approximate 15 guests were as equally entertaining as the reptiles. Although, both Tom and I may have grimaced a time or two.
The two handlers were locals, most likely work only for tips while moving from resort to resort along the beach, which we gladly proffered at the end of the show, us as only one of two guests doing so. 
These harmless (to humans) reptiles have no teeth using a very fast tongue to grasp their prey, usually insects.

 

We were both at ease handling this harmless reptile, fascinated with its pre-historic appeal. (Yes, a visit to the Galapagos Islands is definitely in our future).

 

Chameleon on my leg.  Its legs were sticky grasping at the fabric on my pants.

Starting out with chameleons was probably a good idea on the part of the handlers as an excellent segue to prepare everyone for the scarier reptiles, semi-poisonous snakes, and the renowned python, all of which we handled (except I avoided the python which required raising one arms up to hold it around one’s neck and my bad shoulder couldn’t handle it at this point.

This is a grass snake, non-poisonous, slithering on Tom’s arm. 
This semi-poisonous snake paralyzes its prey. If they bite a human, the area of the bite will feel numb for a few hours but poses no systemic risk.  We were told to keep the head away from us while handling it. This is me holding it, as Tom took the photo.

 

Tom wound it around his hands, keeping the mouth at a distance.

 

For a small snake, this snake has a large head.

 

This is me holding the semi-poisonous snake, again keeping its mouth out of range for a potential non-life-threatening bite.

Here’s a link to the 5 deadliest snakes in Kenya. Yikes! I’m glad we didn’t look at this site before going on safari! Gee, when we were on a safari often “checking the tire pressure,” didn’t assume for a minute that we didn’t have to check the grass for snakes!

Tom was particularly surprised by the weight of even the smaller snakes, most likely due to their muscular strength. 

The snakes were kept in cloth bags to which they were returned after each was presented. The handlers seemed knowledgeable and very concerned for our safety, although there were few risks, other than the wild flailing of the squeamish guest’s arms.

This python posed no risk due to its small size. As it matured, growing in size, it would gain its deadly strength to squeeze the life out of its unfortunate victims.
I love this look on Tom’s face as he’s learning how to handle the python.  Like an infant, the python’s head must be held up to avoid injuring it.
At last!  He’s got python handling figured out!  He couldn’t have looked more pleased! 
Close up of the python Tom handled.
With the snake show at a close, once again, we were thrilled about the experience. Going forward, we’ll watch not only the ground beneath our feet but also that which could be lurking above our heads.
Speaking of potentially scary creatures, while we were dining at The Sands at Nomad on Tuesday night, there were two women sitting across a walkway from us. I could easily see them, based on the direction I was facing.  While chomping on a chewy bite of octopus, I noticed one of the women and then the other, pointing toward my chair, hands over their mouths, muffling screams.
I  bolted out of my seat at precisely the same moment that two male staff members went into action to kill what turned out to be a GIANT spider, frantically stomping their feet to kill it. I never saw it until after it was dead, but from the sound of the stomping and crunching, it must have been huge. It was less than a foot from me when it was sighted. 
For our three day holiday, I had packed three casual long summer dresses to wear to dinner. From that point on, I wore my BugsAway clothing to dinner with shoes and socks, never wearing the dresses in the evening. Do you blame me?