Over my years as a guide I have been in some hairy situations (all puns intended). Lions charging me on foot, being chased up a tree by a buffalo and surrounded by an angry breeding herd of elephants while on a walk. Although they were adrenalin filled and tense moments, I readily and willingly put myself in these positions daily as a guide with absolutely no fear but great respect of my surroundings and its inhabitants, of course. However we all have our vices and fears that overcome us and make us slightly irrational at times and this was certainly the case one night in the Wild Eye Mara Camp in the Masai Mara, Kenya.
There is nothing better than after a long hot day of safari you have an amazing hot bucket shower and get ready for bed. While you are getting ready for bed you can already feel that comfort and "aah" moment and get more excited to finally dive under the covers for a good nights rest. This night was no different for me as I was getting ready for bed however my nightly routine when in the bush is rather OCD like as I have so many checks to do before getting into bed. You see I grew up in Zululand in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. Here I spent most of my time outdoors which meant that I had a lot of "run-ins" with nature. Where I grew up we would constantly be swarmed by mosquitoes if you left your tent zip open, find frogs in your shoes if you left them out an of course we had a lot of snakes around to watch out for. In particular, the African Rock Python which could grow to over 3m in length quite easily. These critters had a way of finding their way into our lives so we used to check and sometimes double check everything before using it. So back to the night that I was nearly ready for bed...
I was finishing up my routine and began to rush as I was particularly tired on this night and almost ran to my bed. I lifted the duvet and started sliding my legs in. I was literally half way through my "aah" moment when my toes began sliding over something "squishy" and warm. My "aah" quickly turned into some profanity and I simply levitated. I was out the bed in seconds hopping around like a madman uttering and muttering all the while looking at the now obvious lump in my bed. It was big - whatever it was and I was really not happy. What was it? How did it get in?
I was unsure what to do at this point. Do I beat it into submission with my water bottle or do I simply burn the tent down? Perhaps both? Instead I gathered my thoughts and decided to first find out what I am dealing with here although I had already convinced myself that is was an African Rock Python but the time had now arrived for me to confirm this. I have seen monkeys and baboons do this before and now I saw myself copying our primate friends whereby I would poke the lump on the bed and jump back making rather strange noises as though expecting the lump to attack. after several pokes and jabs it appeared that the lump was lifeless and perhaps I had scared it to death as it had nearly done to me. So I mustered up all my courage and began to lift the duvet to face the enemy head on. I finally saw what the lump was and all of a sudden I really wished that it was a 4m python because the only thing that looked back at me after I fully removed the blankets was a non venomous and harmless hot water bottle.
You see that day had been a wet and rainy day and the wonderful staff at camp decided to warm our beds with a hot water bottle and it was such an amazing gesture. At least in hind sight it was because at the time of me fighting off large snakes I might have thought otherwise. When I realised that it was a hot water bottle it felt as though all life had drained from my body and been replaced with waves of embarrassment. I found myself laughing out loud while staring down at the lifeless water bottle. If the staff were watching they would have got a real kick out of my 'over the top' and very dramatic reaction. It turns out (and this is me trying to save face here) that this isn't the first time that this has happened. In fact, a guest followed through with a full on attack on the poor water bottle. So I don't feel so bad anymore. Such a funny and wonderful moment to be remembered for my first time in the amazing Mara camp. I had another incident happen to me during this week that was also rather amusing so be sure to check out the podcast below for more on this crazy night!