Lake Manyara is located in Northern Tanzania, about a hundred miles west of Mt. Kilimanjaro. During our travels in Africa we spent a couple of nights in a hotel at Lake Manyara; it was clean and pleasant and afforded spectacular views. It also gave me an unexpected close encounter with wildlife, as noted in my travel journal on September 30, 2007:
We had to check out by 10:00 a.m., so we had about an hour to kill from then until the vans came to take our little group to the airstrip. As we waited in the hotel’s lobby, someone came and reported, with some agitation, that there was a snake in the lounge.
I went to investigate, since I had nothing better to do. It proved to be a small snake, about the diameter of a human finger and perhaps 15 inches long. It was in a corner near a door just off the lobby. I informed some employees who were nearby about this unregistered guest, but when I got them to come and see, they didn’t want to have anything to do with it — when the snake would wriggle, the employees would jump back from it. I was amused by their timidity; it seemed to me that they were overreacting to such a small reptile. The other guests were keeping their distance, too — after having been in the midst of lions and hippos and elephants, why is everyone so fearful of a little snake?
Another employee came to have a look; when I asked what kind it was, he told me that it was a Brown snake, a variety of house snake. Just about then, the snake urped up its breakfast: a small white gecko that the snake had swallowed whole. There was some brisk conversation in Swahili (I think) between the workers — one of the employees got a stick and managed to prod the snake outside…
…That night, on the ride to the airport in Nairobi, I told our guide Lewela the story of the snake at Lake Manyara that morning. He had a different opinion of what kind of snake it was, based on my description of it. He thought it was a dangerous snake, and said that the guy who characterized it as a “brown snake” was making that up, so as not to alarm guests. Lewela guessed that it was, in all likelihood, a young Puff Adder. Who knows?
If it was indeed a Puff Adder, the employees were justified in being cautious, because that’s an extremely venomous snake. After we got back to the States, I checked it out on the internet, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a Puff Adder. I did learn that there is in fact an African variety of Brown Snake — pictures of which look very much like the one I saw — that is capable of inflicting a serious, though not usually lethal, bite. Whatever it was, it’s probably a good thing I didn’t try to pick it up and remove it from the lounge.