Image by John Blythe
We spent a month volunteering at Umhloti Lodge about 20 miles from Kruger. This is a nature reserve, and although none of the big five live here permanently, there are certainly visiting Leopards. However at the centre of the reserve is a Chimpanzee sanctuary (the location of the Animal Planet series “Escape to Chimp Eden”). The volunteers lived around a mile away in several little “Wendy Houses” so each morning we would walk up to the lodge. The reserve is typical savannah, with long yellowy grass, and small prickly bushes as well as trees. While you could see most animals far ahead it was possible to be surprised. On the way we would see the Giraffe and Zebras and the various Antelope species. On exiting our huts the Vervet Monkeys would scatter, and we would start the walk up the road. However on our first morning, perhaps half way up to the lodge we spotted a Black Mamba starting to cross the road. While Black Mambas are not uncommon in this area, a volunteer who had been there three months was still yet to spot one. In South Africa the Black Mamba is perhaps the most dangerous snake. It is up to 2.5m long and can travel with 80% of its body off the ground, if you meet it, on occasions it can be taller than a human.
We stopped as soon as we noticed it, however it was too late. The Black Mamba reared up momentarily and then flicked over back into the grass.