After the enjoyable few days I’d spent on the exotic island of Zanzibar, I was ready to head further into Tanzania knowing that it would mean getting closer (in time and distance) to us doing our Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater game drives – excited much? Oooh yeah!
Our ‘gateway’ to these game drives was the bustling city of Arusha which was an experience in itself! A busy city with way too much traffic, dirt roads and market stalls with people selling everything from shoes to animals; it was exactly the kind of city I expected to see when visiting Africa and I loved it!
Whilst here we were staying at a campsite called Meserani Snake Park – a campsite that is helping lead the way in treatment of snake bits and helps sustain the local Masai community. Nothing wrong with that is there? Except there might have been a little confusion on our part from the ‘Snake Park’ title. You see, we assumed it was only a name for the campsite; that the snake park was separate to our site (as we were told that a visit to the ‘park’ was on our itinerary) and that their treatment clinic was also separate from the clinic. Oh, how wrong could we be.
We had just arrived at the campsite and were therefore setting our tents and camp base up as usual when our leader asked a couple of the group to fill up one of the washing up bowls with water, telling them that the tap was at the top of the camp area on the wall. Nothing wrong with that. Except, no sooner had the guys got to the tap and we hear ‘there are crocodiles over this wall! HUGE crocodiles!’
‘WHAT??!! There are WHAT over the wall? You said what is over the wall??’ On the other side of a 3ft (only 3ft with no fence on top!!!!) wall there were 3 huge crocodiles staring back at us and in that moment we realised that Snake Park wasn’t separate to our campsite, it WAS our campsite. *gulp*. We would be sleeping with, not just crocodiles, but a collection of some of the worlds most deadly snakes on the planet, just the other side of a 3ft wall. Balls of steel required!
Snake Park is a campsite set up by a couple (who are now ‘older’ shall we say but refusing to slow down) and they raise funds for the local Masai community as well as helping to set up and run the clinic which is one of the best (if not THE best) in the entire continent for treatment of snake bites, not least because they don’t charge for their service. Each vaccination of anti-venom costs $200 for example and they don’t ask for a single shilling from their patients or families. All campsite fees that the couple receive are donated to the Masai community and the Snake Park and a percentage of the camp bar tab is also donated so if you ever needed an excuse to get drunk, this is it because all proceeds go to a worthy cause. A pretty impressive campsite all round if you ask me (though it would be even better if the most deadly snakes in the world weren’t the other side of the wall in just a glass cabinet!).
Snake Park is most famous for its treatment of black mamba snake bites – people travel for days (sometimes sadly dying on the way) to get treatment but also help with other bites and constantly look into new ways to try and help people faster in receiving treatment and when you think of the logistics and lack of infrastructure Africa offers at time, it really is impressive to see what they have achieved. Though maybe their next fundraiser could help move the campsite a few more feet away from the most dangerous reptiles in the world?
We got to have a tour around the park which is actually very small but packs enough venomous punch to knock all our lights out! They house reptiles and other animals that have been found and need homes and also study the snakes etc – rather them than me that’s for sure! It certainly didn’t make me feel any better seeing the crocodiles up close on personal in the park – all 6 feet of them with their chomping jaws full of razor sharp teeth! Don’t they know crocodiles can jump?! So I held one to make me feel better…all 2ft of him 😉
And here is where I pass on a great piece of advice for anyone going to be animal park…never be at the front of the group because you know what happens? You talk to someone in your group and when you turn around, the guide is putting a mother-fucking snake around your neck! Small snake yes? Have I held bigger? Yes (insert dirty joke here). Still scare the crap outta me? You’re damn right! It was a little cutie though and was about the only snake in the park that wasn’t poisonous so I thought it was quite sweet.
Thankfully we only had to spend one night here before packing our bags and heading out to the amazing national parks of the Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti and those are posts you REALLY want to read 😀