It was inevitable that on my wanderings through the Kalahari I would come across a cobra. However I never imagined it would be two separate incidents with two separate cobras about 20 minutes apart!!
Picture the scene; its sunset, the meerkats are heading towards their burrow at Gosa Dam, and I am bumbling along behind them not really too bothered about keeping up with the group as I know exactly where they are heading. Nearing the dam, I heard an incredible commotion coming from a nearby Sociable Weaver’s nest (http://blog.member4.mystagingwebsite.com/2012/03/kalahari-social-life.html). Naturally I knew something was wrong as a noise like that is only really produced by the weavers when there is a predator hanging around. I jogged over to the tree in which the nest was in and arrived just in time to see a large Cape Cobra (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cape_Cobra) making its way down from the large nest. I moved in closer to have a good look and the Cobra froze and turned to face me. At this stage we were about 4m apart. I dared another meter and instantly the Cobra rose up, displaying its wide hood and remaining in its ‘frozen’ posture. Instantly my primeval instinct kicked in and all the hairs on my arms and head stood upright and my body started shouting “RUN YOU FOOL!” But I knew what I was doing and knew the reaction was only a natural one. However, erring on the side of caution, I backed away after having a good look at it and allowed the massive cobra to go and find a nice spot to digest all the chicks it had probably just gorged on.
And that was not the end of my cobra experience for the day!
Still reeling with adrenaline, I reached the Gosa Dam burrow where our Gosa gang of meerkats were getting ready to bed down for the night. I was about to sit down when a different Sociable Weaver’s nest across the dam just exploded with angry weavers. I looked over in total disbelief and said “You’ve got to be kidding me!” Could it really be anothercobra attack? This is insane! I felt like I was in some sort of Kalahari Jurassic Park! My feet had started moving at light speed towards the nest before I even realised it! After bolting over the meerkats, down the embankment and around the bushes I found myself standing under the tree in which this new drama was taking place. There, 3m above me was yet another cobra raiding a nest. Two different cobras, two different nests, within around 15-20mins of each other!? Where is Spielberg when you need him! The cobra had wedged itself into a few of the holes in the nest and was buried deep inside one of them, obviously feeding on chicks. Quick as a flash I whipped back over to the dam and grabbed the cameras and once again bolted over the meerkats, down the embankment, round the bushes and up to the tree!
However, what happened next was the last thing I expected. It all happened as fast as lightning but I remember ever detail as if it were a slow-motion picture.
In the time it had taken me to get the cameras and make it back to the tree, the cobra had finished feeding and was now trying to get down from the nest. Unfortunately the cobra had gotten itself into a position where it was too far under the nest to turn around and get back to a branch. As I raced around the bush and came up on the cobra and the nest, the cobra lost its grip and fell. That’s when all hell broke loose. WHAP! The cobra landed in front of me! I started backpedalling in mid-air as my body launched itself upwards and away from the flying reptile. The snake seemed stunned from the fall as I came back down to earth only a few feet away. My body was buzzing, I could have leapt over the tree I had so much adrenaline! Had I been there but a few seconds earlier it would have fallen right on top of me! I was still in my earth-landing position as the snake moved slightly towards me. It was a Mexican stand-off, snake vs. Rob, neither knowing what was supposed to happen now. As the snake regained consciousness, and I regained my breath, we both slowly backed off from each other. When a suitable distance had emerged between us, I followed the snake (WAS I INSANE!?) to a bush where it simply curled up and lay there. Slowly and jerkily I turned from the bush and started head towards the meerkats. Disbelief, shock, excitement, adrenaline, boy oh boy I had it all!
I sat on the bank of the dam laughing and shaking my head at the late-afternoon’s events. As the crew came to fetch me, they looked at me and said “What’s up?” I simply replied “Boys, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you”.
Don’t forget you can follow all my adventures on my fan page at facebook.com/robbruyns or on twitter @robbruyns.
Rob’s song for the day: Ghostbusters – Ray Parker Jr.
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