"Dear me, crazy girl, aren't you scared at all theses snakes and insects crawling around everywhere? I'd be yellow!" That's the typical kind of statement that comes to my ears when telling about my trips to Africa. Many people imagine Africa to be a continent crowded by poisonous snakes, giant spiders, deadly scorpions and murderous insects and there is no escape, especially being a camper. But I'm still alive, not only because encountering these creatures is more rare than one might guess. Also because there are some basic rules of conduct that help you to avoid such unpleasant encounters.

Don't forget to wear shoes all the time. No matter if planning a walk along the shore, hiking the bush or just strolling on the trimmed lawn of your lodge, always take care of wearing adequate shoes. For walks at sandy beaches bathing shoes or outdoor sandals (no flip flops), which are protecting your feet from the poisoned arrows of cone shells and hookworms, will suffice. For strolls on "civilized terrain" you should choose low shoes or sneakers, but as soon as you come into touch with the boondocks leather-jackboots are becoming vital. Treading heavily makes the ground vibrate and thus most snakes are scared away. Only the puff adder doesn't get ready to escape, so always mind your steps.

Try to avoid roaming through shrubbery, under low trees or in high grass. You could burst upon tree snakes or spiders, which are genuine masters of camouflage. Abstain from turning or removing stones, rocks and roots, from poking your fingers into hidden holes as well as into shoes, luggage and clothes which have been lying about outdoors. Packing up your tent overcarelessly can also lead to encounters in the painful or even lethal dimension. So first eye it, control it, shake it - than touch it!

Close your tent at all events, keep your room's doors and unsecured windows shut. Store your luggage, clothes and shoes inside the tent/room and stow everything, if possible, at an elevated place. Nonetheless shake out your clothes and shoes before putting them on again.

Should you be bitten or stinged inspite of greatest care, it'll be very important to keep calm and to identify the culprit. Some spider's bite can be very achy, but it shouldn't be lethal for a healty grown-up, normally. Nor the venom of most african scorpions is able to kill a human being. Exception to the rule: a few subspecies of the thick tailed scorpion (Parabuthus sp.), which are mainly to be found in the southern parts of Africa. For this, some few events of death by respiratory paralysis are documented.

In case of a snake bite the afflicted limb must not be bound off as this could aggravate local effects of the venom. Apply crushed ice to the affected area. The cold helps to retard the venom action and reduces pain. This must be done within minutes of being bitten. Do not cool for an extended period and remove periodically for the feeling to return otherwise tissue damage might result. If there is a special Snake Bite Suction Device at hand, suck the wound with the extractor pump. Never, never use your mouth for sucking the wound nor must you cut it open! Keep the patient or the affected part as motionless as possible. However, this might not be practical if one is out in the wild. It then is preferable to get to help as soon as possible even if the patient has to walk. If there is any possibility of tranporting the patient, try to keep him on his back with feet raised above the rest of the body. Cover with a blanket and keep the head to one side in case of vomiting. Then call for medical assistance.

But while exercising required caution, such fatal accidents will happen quite rarely, fortunately. However, danger threatens not only from this side: never touch plants or animals you are not familiar with. May they be ever so tiny, fluffy, colourful or tempting anyhow. They also might contain poisons, toxins or venoms causing allergic reactions. Thus, enjoy your holidays with your eyes only, with sharp and eager eyes, and you will have a wonderful time.

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Don't hesitate to share your own experiences either in my visitors' book or by mail.