Stories and Traveltips

ID #4736

Camping at the Savuti Channel, Chobe Game Reserve, Northern Botswana, Southern Africa.

In the early 70’s, Stuart Forbes and I decided to undertake a self-drive safari through Zimbabwe and Botswana.  We stopped to camp at the Savuti channel in Chobe National Park – an oasis in the desert. We arrived in the late afternoon and hurriedly set up camp.  When I said that I was going to set up our tent, Stuart said that he was going to sleep in the open but I was having none of it. Feeling a bit foolish, I agreed to set up only the flysheet. I then set about blocking the entrance with my backpack etc. Stuart and company, laughing at my timidity, set up their stretchers on a patch of river sand outside the mouth of the tent. We spent the remainder of the day enjoying a few sundowners as the sun set.  We had set up a gas lamp on the sand and watched a hunting spider (sicarius hahni, sand spiders, solfugid, camel spiders, wind scorpions, baardskeerders, jagspinnekop) – a huge yellow-pink beast almost the size of one’s hand – hide in the shadow beneath the lamp. Non-poisonous, they have two pincers they use to devour their prey. However, they look frightening – particularly because of the speed at which they run around.  Moths, attracted by the light, would fly around and flop down on the sand. The spider would then charge out and devour them, making disgusting crunching sounds in the process. 

Eventually we settled down for the night.  At dawn the following morning, I heard a scuffle outside the tent and my companions came flying into the tent. I looked out to see a hippo -- all I could see from inside the tent was its backside. It had emerged from the river to kick over our lamp and kick sand in our faces. It seems that the patch of sand in question was his favourite spot. So much for my timidity -- I had the last laugh on this occasion.

The following day we were joined by Eric Rundgren. He was an experienced big game hunter who had spent years in Kenya doing game control work. He suggested that we catch some bream (tilapia) for supper. Having brought our rods and lures, we readily agreed. Having caught several, we were about to return to camp when my only lure became hooked on a log in the river. Reluctant to cut the line, I asked Eric for advice. He suggested that I should dive into the river and unhook it.  I enquired about crocodiles, to which he replied that there was no need for concern. “They were all shot out years ago” he said.  Taking his advice, I dived into the river and swam to where the lure was hooked – a short distance of not more than 10-m.  I unhooked it and turned back towards the bank.  As I turned, I heard a splash from a patch of reeds on the opposite bank. Well! – I literally walked over the surface back to the bank! A crocodile had been lurking in the reeds on the bank opposite.

Moral of the story: Trust your instincts and do not take advice from great white hunters, especially when your life rather than theirs is at stake. More particularly, don’t do daft things like swim in crocodile-infested rivers. Alan McIver AXCamping

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Last update: 2014-05-14 14:18
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.3

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