Your trip is planned and you are about to set off on your overland trip! Excitement is big and contagious, but on the other end of the scale you are also a bit nervous as you are unsure how to act around wild animals.
Let me, as an experienced and seasoned African traveller, give some basic do’s and don’ts when you are out there:
- Zip up your tent – no matter how hot it is in side, zip up for various reasons. It keeps out bugs, mosquitoes and slithering things like snakes. A lion will not bother you in your tent. They do not realise that they can rip open the canvas with a quick stroke of the paw and no, an elephant will not trip over your tent. Elephants are amazingly gracious when they walk.
- When you go to bed stow all food (and garbage) either in your tent or vehicle. Inquisitive animals like hyenas, jackal, etcetera will come and have a look what is there to taste.
- Do not wander off in the dark and outside the light of the fire. There are creatures watching you that you do not even know of. If you do have to go for a nightly routine walk let somebody go with you with a torch and keep close to your tent. Night animals have keen eyesight and spot you long before you even notice them, so take care.
- Be extremely vigilant when vervet monkeys and baboons are around. They are very quick and will grab your food before you know it. Do not challenge a baboon, if this does happen they can be dangerous. Rather back off.
- Mana Pools is famous for its “dagga boys” (i.e. a lone stray buffalo) that venture into camp even in day times. Be on the look out and try to avoid them totally.
- A rather difficult one to do is if you have an encounter with a lion or elephant – DO NOT RUN! I say again – DO NOT RUN! Your instinct will tell you to get out of the way, but stay put, stand very still .
- At rivers and dams be on the lookout for crocodiles that lurk in the muddy waters especially on the banks when you approach. Also keep an eye out for paths that animals (i.e. hippopotamus) use that lead to the water. A hippo looks clumsy, but they are not.
- Do not misjudge the small animals as they can bite you and there is a possibility that they carry rabies. Rabies are fatal. Wild animals that are prone to rabies are: monkeys, mongoose, meerkat, jackals.
Remember that you are in the wild and wild animals can be unpredictable and “a lot” quicker than you think. Do not party – alcohol impair your judgment towards wild animals and may land you in unexpected trouble.
“You have to look after wealth, but knowledge looks after you. — Zambian Proverb”