Some people are afraid to go on safari because of the snakes and the bugs. I used to laugh at that. I like to plan my trips for July. On my first two safaris I saw no snakes and very few bugs. On the third trip, I chopped the head off a black mamba. On this one, my fourth safari, we started out with very cold temperatures (which discourage snakes and bugs), but by day 4, the daytime temps were in the low 80s.
We were driving down a dirt road in Wighardt’s Land Cruiser when he slammed on the brakes and said something like, “Puffadda!”
I must have been a little sleepy, but the urgency in his voice made me think there was something out in front of the truck that was not to be missed. I jumped out and ran around the front of the vehicle and stopped. There, in the road, headed for the brush, was a snake, about 30 inches long, big around the body, with a head shaped like a wedge.
Oh, right. Puff adder.
Puff adders are notorious for being slow and silent, like a fat, lazy rattlesnake without a rattle. They would rather bite you than get out of your way.
Our producer, Sam Pyke, went from drowsing on the back of the vehicle to full-on adrenaline-fueled camera operator-mode. He leaped from the back of the rig, his tripod in one hand and his GoPro in the other, as if he had been born for this moment.
The puff adder was headed for the brush but Wighardt persuaded him to stay in the road for his big TV debut. And the snake obliged.
Sam strapped the GoPro to the tripod leg and put the camera down in the dirt. The snake struck, his fangs bouncing off the lens and he struck again, and the venom oozed down the glass.
Wighardt and Sam waltzed with the beautiful, deadly creature then afforded the viper safe passage back into the bush. We were all a bit more watchful after that.