It’s no secret that I am deeply in love with the continent of Africa; to me it represents the best adventures of my life. We are all familiar with the African dangerous game animals: from the elephants that will impale you on their tusks and squash you into jelly, to a Cape buffalo that will gore you with those sharp, black horns and toss you into the air like a rag doll, to the hippopotamus that can bite a canoe in half. That doesn’t even mention the lion and leopard, which can bite and claw until your anatomy has been rearranged to Twizzler-sized pieces.
But, the obvious dangerous animals aside, Africa has a whole lineup of creatures, from microscopic to those measured in meters, that will cause you harm (best case scenario) or kill you in a quarter-hour (worst case scenario). Let’s take a look at some of them.
Mosquitoes The tiny Anopheles mosquito can wreak all sorts of havoc, should you be exposed to its bite without proper precautions. Malaria is a killer, and if you speak to enough Professional Hunters, you’ll find a good percentage of those that hunt in Malaria country have been stricken with this affliction, and probably more than once. As a visiting hunter, I use a regimen on malarial prophylaxis and follow the direction to the letter; I want to enjoy my time in Africa, and don’t need to see the inside of an African hospital.
Scorpions These little evil-looking arachnids are the stuff of nightmares. Well, small nightmares. Whilst in South Africa during the month of November, the wife and I had to be very careful to check our shoes while dressing in the morning, as the Steenbokpan area was rife with scorpions. Their sting will cause a burning sensation, and enough swelling to keep you in camp for a day or two should you fall victim to them. Steer clear of scorpions, they’re dirtbags.
Leguaan It was my first safari, and we were hunting the Nylstroom area of the Limpopo, at a beautiful thatched-roof lodge. The entire staff—from groundskeepers to kitchen folks—was more than friendly, and we became fast friends. Imagine my surprise when the docile, soft-spoken lady who made the most delicious desserts came screaming out of the kitchen repeating “Leguaan! Leguaan!” I had no idea what a leguann was, so I grabbed my .375 H&H and ran to sort out the issue. Well, as it turns out, a leguaan is a Nile monitor lizard, and this one was in excess of two meters. It was protected (I didn’t harm it in the least), and my PH kind of shooed it away with a broom, but it made an impressive sight, turning the corner much like the velociraptors in Jurassic Park; you, nail skidding on the tiles and so forth. These lizards carry all sorts of disease in their maws, and a bite can easily result in a serious infection. They too are dirtbags, and should be given wide berth.
Baboons This may sound silly, but these can pose a serious problem, especially when they become used to interacting with humans. Suzie and I were sightseeing at Victoria Falls, from the Zambian side, and it seemed like there was a ‘boon on every fence post. We heard a lady scream, and when we got closer the baboon had tried to steal her shiny purse. I immediately acquired a "juju stick," which might have fended off the would-be thieves, and spent our time there looking over our shoulders. Baboons have nasty teeth and a nastier disposition. Not unlike a panhandler at the intersection, don’t make eye contact.
Snakes I saved the best for last. Trust me, if there’s one creature in Africa that has the most odds of ending your career on Earth, it’s a snake. Black mamba, green mamba, boomslang, puff adder, black forest cobra; it doesn’t matter—they can kill you and kill you quickly. Most safari outfits don’t carry any sort of antivenin, as if they administer the wrong type, they’ll kill you doubly. The black mamba has venom that will stop your heart within fifteen minutes, and while I’ve seen exactly two of them, I have no desire to see another. A couple of quick anecdotes: my wife—a fine African huntress in her own right—seems to be the lucky charm for snake sightings. On our first safari—a Zambian adventure that was our honeymoon—we came across a seven-foot black forest cobra, which PH Nicky Wightman quickly dispatched with a .458 Winchester Magnum. The second time that Mama and I got to hunt Africa together, we had temperatures that ranged from 80˚F up to 115˚F, so as it "cooled down," the black mambas decided to sun themselves for warmth. Killing a 10-foot mamba in a tree at 15 paces will definitely get the blood pumping, and PH Sebastian Jonker’s explanation regarding the territorial nature of the male mambas didn’t make the experience any easier. I don’t like snakes on any continent, but I especially dislike African snakes. As my Tanzanian PH Terry Calavrias responded to my question of which type of snake we’d just heard slipping through the elephant grass: "I don’t know, and I don’t care. We’re going the other way."
While the chance of encountering one or all of these nasty little buggers is real, I don’t want to scare you away from experiencing Africa; in spite of all the risks, I wouldn’t trade it for the world! Safari njema!
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