- Safari

Tanzania Africa Safari – The Black Mamba Incident

We were well into our African safari having spent time in Ngorongoro Crater and a couple of days on the Serengeti in a luxury mobile tented camp. With that particular segment of our safari coming to an end we rode to the rendezvous area some forty-five minutes away to meet our main safari guide and driver, Fabian Ngua who drove from some distance to meet us. He would again be with us for the remainder of the safari.

One of the people in our safari group had seen a picture of a Black Mamba snake in one of the reference books Fabian carried in his vehicle. They are a highly poisonous snake found in that area. That person, whose identity shall not be divulged, to protect the guilty, was fascinated by snakes and knew Black Mambas lived in the area we were visiting. For clarity let’s call that person Reptilia. As we started our several hour trek down the Serengeti to our next tented camp location Reptilia told our driver we just had to see a Black Mamba before the safari was over.

Black Mamba (nicknamed The Shadow of Death)

  • Size: largest venomous snake in Africa (8.2 ft~14 ft)
  • Speed: reputed to be the fastest moving snake in the world – up to 12 mph
  • Color: Mouth – Black interior, Skin – gray to olive tone
  • Venom: Among the most venomous snakes in the world
  • Bite: One bite may inject enough venom to kill 20-40 grown men
  • Lifestyle: Lives primarily in grasslands of Africa, also in bushes and small trees

As we spotted different animals and also some A-L-Ts she kept saying she wanted to see a Black Mamba snake. We laughed and often shrugged it off. The rest of us all wanted to see the wild animals and birds. Snakes were the last thing on our minds, a poisonous one at that. However, we were frequently looking on the dirt road in front of us for any sign of a Black Mamba. We scanned the roadside along our vehicle too for that elusive snake in the hopes of satisfying Reptilia. Partly out of curiosity, partly to satisfy her we really did try to spot a Black Mamba.

Fabian got a call over the radio that two Black Mambas had been spotted fairly close to us. He quickly drove us over there and spent some time looking, but there was no snake of any type in sight, let alone two Black Mambas. We continued our journey still hoping to spot that one sight that was so dear to Reptilia, but instead managed to see loads of wildebeest, zebra, baboons, vultures, elephants, giraffes, and other wild animals.

Time went by, no Black Mamba came to greet us or even scare us. We couldn’t spot one no matter how much we tried. We stopped in an area of some tall grass and underbrush and a few small trees to eat our boxed lunch. Reptilia was looking around in the grass through her camcorder zoom lens for a Black Mamba while the rest of us started devouring our lunch. We were all still in the vehicle as is the normal case. Only in areas deemed relatively safe would our driver allow us to leave the vehicle. This was one of those areas.

Still looking and hoping, Reptilia suddenly blurted out “I think I see a Black Mamba.” She looked and looked several times at what was surely a Black Mamba hidden in the grass a few feet from our vehicle. It was difficult to discern exactly what that little sliver of grayish-black was, but she was almost positive it was a Black Mamba she had so longed to see. We all took turns looking through the camera, but none of us could positively identify what we saw as a snake, let alone a Black Mamba. What we saw was grayish-black, but it was so buried in the grass and leaves it left serious doubt in most of our minds. It could have been a twig, a small branch or some other non-living thing.

After about ten minutes of listening to the comments of the others and looking in the grass myself (from our vehicle and through my camera) where the snake was supposed to be I couldn’t come to the conclusion it was alive, let alone the revered Black Mamba that by now had captured everyone’s attention. I thought about it for a few seconds and decided it was not very likely to be one of those poisonous snakes. If it was, it probably would have moved by now or at least rustled the grass or leaves.

So almost out of instinct or rather curiosity, I decided to check it out, hoping against hope that I was right and Reptilia was wrong. I got out the vehicle and walked around to near where the dangerous snake was hiding. Reptilia handed me the camera pointing to the minuscule image on the LCD viewer. I didn’t see a snake through the camera, just a short grayish sliver that I could hardly make out.

I cautiously stepped close to where the “snake” was hiding while picking up a little twig. Then I poked around in that area where the supposed snake was hiding. Poke after poke and turning over leaves and parting grass I searched that “snake infested” area. Nothing, absolutely nothing moved or could be spotted, as I fanned the area looking for the Black Mamba. Some in the group were holding their breath during my search of the underbrush, knowing that if there were really a Black Mamba or any other poisonous snake in the grass it would not be a pretty sight.

That little escapade of mine in the underbrush blew Reptilia’s precious Black Mamba sighting into oblivion. I think she felt a bit taken back and it quieted her down (somewhat) the rest of the safari about seeing a Black Mamba. Her hope was still there, however, of seeing one of those hard to spot (at least for us) Black Mambas. If anyone is curious as to who Reptilia really is, they are a principal in Golden West Intermodal Inc and you can find out their name by contacting them on the Contact form on their website.

Our safari ended a few days later without the fanfare of seeing a real Black Mamba. Maybe next time we’ll have better luck. Yes, if circumstances permit, we all wish we could come back and experience the whole safari experience again. Plans are already being drawn up for a tentative 2010 African Safari since reservations generally have to be made a year or more in advance. Let’s see how many of us will make it back, although everyone would like for that “trip of a lifetime” to happen again.

Copyright © Charles Harmon