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 was 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 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 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 it’s 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 and 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 in the car, we spotted several giraffes near their house on Hornbill and 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 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 that Tom had the worst scare of his life in January. We were seated on the veranda at the Hornbill house while 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. Now, 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 nonetheless.

We’ve since learned a bit about snakes after attending snake school last March. A huge snake can be relatively harmless, and a small snake can be deadly. That size means nothing when it comes to venomous snakes.

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 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!

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, our hotel’s location.  For more city photos, please click here.

Yikes….Venomous snake at Jabula, as we walked up the steps!…Jaun, 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 the 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 got 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) to have an opportunity to chat with owners Dawn, Leon, and assistant Lyn at the comfortable bar.  
Jaun, snake handler, captured the snake, placing it in this container and releasing it in Lionspruit, where other caught venomous snakes are sent to live out their lives.

We parked the red car in our usual spot, reasonably 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 member 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, inflating its neck with its bright orange tongue flickering – this leads to the incorrect assumption that they lure birds closer with their tongue. It is exceptionally placid but, if provoked, will inflate its neck and strike viciously. Bites are rare and most inflicted on snake handlers.

Like the Boomslang, this snake’s venom is haemotoxic, affecting the blood clotting mechanism and causing uncontrolled bleeding. There is no antivenom for the poison 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 bright. That didn’t work and was 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 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!

Jaun 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 Jaun 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 scorching 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, cozy lighting, friendly staff, good friends, great food and service, and our good friends Dawn and Leon make it an exceptional 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. During our dinner and after Dawn and Leon joined us at different points, 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 slept no longer alluding to 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 the news on my phone, which I’d 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 bad either.

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

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

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

A band was 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. Tom handled one of these, as shown below.  No, thanks for me! Chris, our instructor, held the Black Mamba as we took this photo.

“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, additional species have been discovered with the use of DNA.

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 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 venomous Snouted Cobra.

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

With these statistics, it’s 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, walking on one’s property, and other chance encounters. 

 Tom was bending over to grasp the tail of the Snouted Cobra, keeping the head down in the grass, 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 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 its 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. If a snake is in another room or a distant area, get away as quickly as possible, securing your space in a closed place 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 with many snakes, it’s wise to have an emergency number available 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, Securicor 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 a 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)

Through years of training and experience, Chris can only handle this dangerous snake with such skill.

4.  Do not “cut and suck” the bite wound. This has been proven to be 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 contains antibodies of several kinds 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 and not handle the snakes, although I took the classroom course and the test. 

Often, once the patient is in the hospital, the medical staff will immediately start various 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 in areas where snake bites are a possibility for all of us. As laypersons, we cannot guarantee that all of the information provided 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, email at reptile@mweb.co.za, or 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. They 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 b found here.

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

Have a safe and bountiful day!

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

Bob, our fantastic landlord, and a 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 vast, beautiful birds. Within a week, they were coming to visit us, eating ground beef out of my hand. For more photos as we settled into 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, six warthogs, and three bushbucks. 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 offered by a 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 the cost of ZAR 950 (US $80.55) per person. There were a total of 18 trainees.

When placing a snake into a container, the container must include newspaper or some scraps that 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 exciting information.

However, based on our long-term stay in Africa, we felt such an education would prove to be highly beneficial if 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 manufacture antivenom.

After attending this vital course, we realize we handled that snake encounter on the veranda in a dangerous manner, mainly 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 a fear of insects under control and can identify many venomous insects we may encounter. The goal here in Africa is not to kill insects, which play a vital role in the ecosystem.

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

On the other hand, Snakes 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 widespread snake on 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 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 excellent 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, pr foolishly trying to handle them without proper knowledge.

In Chris’s detailed classroom course, which 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 was 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 a hazardous, venomous snake species found in sub-Saharan Africa in the central and southern regions of the continent. However, they are found here in South Africa as well. The boomslang is most abundant in Botswana, Swaziland, Namibia, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe. Still, the species has been reported as far north as southern Chad and Nigeria and east as eastern Guinea.” 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 poison; haemotoxic – blood working venom.
Tom and Jim stood contemplated their subsequent “capture.”  To the far right is our new friend Pat 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 lived 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. Clever snakes! Some non-venomous snakes will “imitate” venomous snakes in appearance and behavior in an attempt to ward off predators.

Are we less fearful of snakes after the course?  In some ways, yes, especially in realizing snakes generally are afraid of us and 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.”

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.