Monkeys Never Forget
Flatdogs & Mzungus
Peeping Gilberts
Bus-ted Tourists
Wading with Cobras
Not Dead Yet
Bush Calls


... Crocodiles AND Cobras!

Jess & Ade's House

Water, water everywhere…  That scenario is hard to imagine now in this August dry season when the Luangwa looks like a lazy meandering ribbon of muddy water.  Yet, only six months ago in the worst floods since 1978, this seemingly-lazy river was a raging torrent choked with uprooted trees, sections of riverbank and all sorts of animals trying desperately to escape.  The Luangwa and its roll-off-your-tongue tributaries, the Lupande, Mupumadzi, Mushilashi and Msandile rose from their usual rainy season highs up and over the worn banks inundating all but one of the safari camps that normally sit so peacefully on the sandy shores.  The rapid rise of the water caught some of the local expatriates by surprise provoking a rush to pile furniture and belongings as high above ground as possible, then a dash for tipsy small boats to evacuate to higher ground.

A small croc in the carport

The river actually flowed through the house I live in bringing creatures one wouldn’t normally want into one’s living room.  Crocodiles took full advantage of the floods to feast on poor animals like puku and the lovely shy bushbucks that normally stay far from the toothy jaws.  Jess and Ade, two of the Flatdogs managers, boated home to check on their house and found crocodiles basking on their carport as the waters began to recede.  Most of the local expatriates headed to a refugee camp of sorts at Kapani Lodge of Norman Carr Safaris, the only one of the riverside camps not to be swamped with flood water.  The few “emerald season” guests at the lodges still open in the rainy season were evacuated to the higher ground of the airport at the last minute.

Reception at Flatdogs

During the height of the floods, everyone pitched in to help evacuate staff at the flooded camps and rescue pets and prize belongings.  One can imagine the dangers posed by wading through muddy flowing water full of crocodiles and snakes.  On one memorable mission, a rescuer stepped his bare foot out of the boat into waist deep water to land squarely on the snout of a very large crocodile lurking in the depths.  Primitive reflexes fired promptly to rocket the rescuer out of the water in panic.  As he clung to an overhanging branch, the equally terrified croc (apparently unaware he was missing out on a particularly meaty meal) torpedoed away to safety from the crazy humans.

What's hiding under the sofa?

As people in the Valley returned to their homes, they found slippery mud coating the floors and their belongings ruined.  One of the hunting guides went home to find a seven foot long black-necked spitting cobra curled up inside the muddied mosquito net on their bed.  He dispatched the snake with a shot from a .22 then a second shot for good measure since cobras are notoriously hard to kill.  The snake continued to contort and writhe, but the guide was convinced it was “properly dead.”  He gingerly carried the dead snake out onto the front porch and returned inside to search for the cobra’s mate since they are often found in pairs.  He found no sign of a second snake, but when he returned to the front porch to dispose of the cobra’s presumably lifeless body, the snake had vanished.  A thigh deep gulley of flood water separated the house and the car they now needed to wade to.  Being a snake-savvy guy, the guide was worried that the cobra in its death throes might be lurking in the gulley ready for one final kiss of death.  So the guide took a broom and began probing around in the water by the porch for the snake.  Just then he saw coils of the snake as it surfaced briefly just out of reach of his broom.  And what would any thinking person do in that situation?  Of course, just like he did, you’d wade into the water to try to find the snake.  As he was standing now thigh deep in muddy Luangwa flood waters, he suddenly felt something wrap around his lower leg.  Most of you are now running from the room for your Jell-O, but I’m afraid it would do no good here.  Our intrepid guide, having grown up in the bush, didn’t panic, instead he slowly lifted his leg out of the water to reveal the cobra wrapped around his calf.  What the guide couldn’t see, but his horrified wife could, was that the snake, in its dying moments, was biting itself over and over with each thrust of its fangs coming within a hair’s breadth of our hero’s naked flesh.  His lovely wife thought “Oh, dear.  He’ll be so embarrassed to have died like this.  I’ll just have to let his body float away and say he was lost in the floods to save his reputation!”  She needn’t have worried for our hero calmly reached down, grabbed the nearly dead snake behind the head and carefully unwrapped the body from his lower leg.  Then he killed the cobra so that it was “most sincerely dead.”  Problem sorted!  Just another typical day in Zambia!

Click here to see me in front of the sign

Fortunately, most folks survived the flood with no need for such wild antics.  Most of the villages were built with knowledge of historical floods and survived with little damage though many of the fields were inundated causing heavy crop losses.  Despite the epic amounts of water and sand that coursed through the buildings, the safari camps, on the whole, repaired the damage quickly and were ready for this year’s safari goers in April.  The crocodiles retreated to the river and the cobras to the septic tanks (also ready for this year’s safari goers), that rescuer was finally coaxed down from the tree, and all was normal again in the Luangua.

After a long day at the clinic, I’m ready for a little wading in the water myself.  I guess I just need to be sure to bring my broom!


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This page was last updated 08/25/07