Posted by Kian Barker
Greetings and Salutations,
iSimangaliso is an interesting World Heritage Site. No matter what part of this natural World Heritage site you might be eco-touring in, there will be something distinctly interesting. The north has the Kosi Community and fish traps, the middle is occupied by Sodwana, and the south section has everything from mammals to whales, hippos and turtles. Each area has it's loyal supporters. If you are into SCUBA, you will be left rather high and dry if you are either in the north or south. A similar rule applies to the other areas, depending on your particular interests. I have always liked the south, as it is rich in all sorts of terrestrial, amphibious and aquatic life forms.
In fact many of the tours I conduct, focus on the various aspects to be found in this area. One particular tour is called the World Heritage Tour, where we rummage around in the "Park," looking for all sorts of life and not so 'lively' forms. From diminuative dung beetles to the mighty vegetated dunes. The distance we travel is not so great however, due to the vast variety of life, eco-systems and the aesthetic beauty of the area. This tour swallows a whole day. Often on this trip, and if the weather conditions are right, we will see something rather unusual. On this particular day we had visited the lookout point, viewed stacks of game, birds and plant life, snorkeled, consumed lunch, visited Lake Bhangazi and a tree with a criminal record.It was on the last stretch of road before rejoining the tar road, when a large water monitor lizard appeared in front of the vehicle. .
This lizard was at least two meters in length, although they can reach three meters in length. Two points struck me about this large, potentially angry beast. We were in the middle of winter and it was still out and about. The second point is that it's GPS seemed to have jammed, and it insisted on running parallel to the road. After crashing though an area of burnt grass it swung across the road. At this point I stopped the Unimog to allow everyone to get a good look at this "galloping" reptile. Monitor lizards have a really strange gait. Their whole body appears to be about to fall apart when they run at speed. But when I stopped, the lizard did not stop running. It ran ahead, crossed the road then circled back to us and ran straight at our 4.5 ton safari vehicle. I thought to myself. "Hey lizard, pick on your own size!". But this is when it got really strange. As I expected this lizard to pass under the vehicle and onto the otherside of the road. Never think for a monitor lizard! Needless to say there was no chicken on the other side of the road waiting for this lizard. This was why it possibly decided to make an attempt at disemboweling our safari vehicle. Now what do you do when a rather hot and bothered reptile decides to climb under your vehicle. Firstly all your guests lift there feet off the floor boards. Secondly no one offers to assist! Even when invited and when the rules of chivalry are invoked, no one accepted.
Since I felt responsible I decided that this reptile wanted to play hide and seek. Mentally I was not in the mood to do the "Coming ready or not!' bit!. Once off the vehicle I started the "seek" with a fair amount of caution and at a distance. Like 20m meters just in case this monitor lizard leapt out from under the vehicle and caught me around my throat piercing it's sharp teeth deep into my jugular vein! This did not happen. Nothing happened and nothing was to be seen. Nothing. There was a lot of nervous shuffling around, on the vehicle, then silence. Slowly I worked my way around my vehicle. A precursory check yielded nothing. A second and third check yielded nothing . I thought about offering some of the ladies to go first and peer under the Unimog, but decided it was not the chivalrous thing to do.
The next step was to check all the areas where this lizard may have potentially crawled up onto the vehicle. While inspecting the right rear wheel arch I discovered this reptile that had a couple of tricks up it's sleeve when it came to "hide and seek." Or maybe it liked German engineered vehicles! It had climbed into the top of the wheel arch where the top of the shock-absorber is mounted, and wedged itself into a rather tight spot. The minute I tried to grab it , the monitor lizard made it clear that I was too close. It hissed and puffed. "Mmmm" I thought, a bit difficult this one. After throwing caution to the wind and giving up on the chivalry bit, I grabbed it by the tail to try on dislodge it in order to continue our journey. At this point quite a crowd had gathered around our vehicle, and a number of people had snapped a couple of shoots of this "hide and seek" reptile. At this point I noticed that apart from it's nasty teeth, lethal tail, it had Revlon nails. Large pointed, nasty and sharp nails. As I tugged away and worked up a sweat, this Revlon reptile was embedding its nails into my chassis paint work in an attempt to remain bonded to the Unimog. I decided "no pay, no stay!" And with a concerted effort managed to dislodge the rather hostile reptile.
Okay, okay, what do you do with a crazy reptile that has lost it's sense of humour. My first thought was to flick it to a safe distance and bolt for the vehicle. However with the reptile paparazzi all around, this was not an option. Someone might have got injured. So twirling the reptile like an athlete throwing the hammer, I did a strange pirouette to ensure the centripetal force would prevent the lizard from being able to turn back on itself and bite me. I released this slightly dizzy lizard a short distance from the crowd. Fortunately it was aimed in the right direction and disappeared into the grass.We were all relieved when it did not return, but were grateful for the entertainment it had provided.
Hasta la vista,
The Knait Wrydah in the Day