Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Puff Adder

Usually when I go to Africa, I hope each time NOT to see snakes. But after my last trip I have to amend that to I hope to see them but not get bit by them! I saw three types of snakes on my last journey and really found them fascinating, and not as icky as I'd imagined.

We came across this puff adder on a dry, sandy road in northern Botswana. After the vehicle passed over it (it was between the tires) our guide let us get out and walk back to see it up close. He said that puff adders play dead for a time and so it was safe. I once saw a Zebra in Kenya that had most likely been killed by a puff adder and I know they are supposed to be terribly toxic. Surely in remote Africa if you get bit, you're done for. Yet I still found it very cool to be able to be close to one, to watch it lie there, frozen, possessing the ability to easily kill me yet more fearful of me than I of it.

I was surprised how fat it was and I asked my guide if it has eaten recently. He told me puff adders are naturally a wide, fat snake. Seeing it so clearly on the sand was a great chance to get a close up of the head, and to see the length without camouflage (about 2-3 feet). I may never see another one, so I'm lucky I got to visit this one. I knelt down and took some photos, still maintaining a respectful distance. The snake's eyes were cold like a shark's - there is no connection there that I feel I can make. I have come to respect snakes and regard them as having a valuable place in the ecosystem, but I never have a desire to touch them or get too close!

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