Getting attacked on Safari!
It was the year 2005 I was in my early twenties and I was on a camping trip with my Father and uncle in Tanzania. We were traveling with a single SUV in to some of the most amazing and wildlife rich areas of Tanzania. After having seen the strange tree dwelling Lions of Lake Manyara we had finally come to the holy grail of Safari; The Serengeti!
While we had just missed the wildebeest migration there was still wildlife abound everywhere. Just a few hours before nightfall we were nearing what was to be our camping spot. About one and a half Kilometer before the camp we saw a Leopard in a tree, about 1 kilometer before the camp a pride of lions and just a few hundred meters from the camp 2 lonely bull Cape Buffalo's.
As we arrived at our camp I first noticed that it just was a circular clearing in the bush perhaps 25 meters wide. It was an area we could pitch our tents with no grass and bushes. There were no fences and no buildings except for a large water tank and one cage like building that looked like a prison cell that you could use as a panic room in case of an attack. Considering we just had seen 3 of the big five near the camp we had reasons to be a bit worried.
The water tank had no water in it but we had enough to last us for a few days and we would restock at the nearest ranger station instead. We pitched 3 small tents in which we all slept alone.
Initially we were alone at the camp site but the following night a few more people arrived to camp at the same spot. The extra safety in numbers felt good.
Every evening darkness would fall swiftly a bit after 6 PM, we would make dinner and stay up till about 8.30 PM or so and then be off to our tents. We would sit around the campfire watch the stars, tell stories and watch the mongoose trying to steal our leftovers. It was the third night at our camp and so far we had a great time. When in Africa sleeping in a tent I always try to stay up as long as I can and listen to all the sounds of the Africa bush. In the nights you could hear the Hyena's laugh and howl while circling around tents and in the distance you could hear lions roaring over territory. It was magical. If you ever wonder what the sound of Africa is, I can tell you it is not the roar of lions but it is the howling and laughter of good old Fisi as the spotted Hyena is known in Swahili. We had gotten strict instructions to not get of our tents during nightfall but not taking a leak from 8.30 pm till day break at 6 AM was no easy feat. Each night I would go out of my tent walk to the back right where the high grass started. Taking a leak and staring in to the darkness you can't see a thing and you have no idea if anything is looking back. In hindsight this was quite foolish behavior and not something I would recommend.
On the third night after sitting at the campfire we retired to our tents. I lighted the way as my father left his flashlight somewhere in his tent. As he went inside I continued to my tent. I got startled when my father called out for help saying he was getting bitten everywhere. I rushed back to his tent anxiously wondering what was going on. My father in his panic still had not been able to locate his flashlight and instead decided to light his tent with his cell phone. What he revealed then came straight out of B horror movie. His tent and himself were covered with flesh eating driver ants!
While I shone in my light in to the tent I got quite the shock seeing my father and the tent covered in these huge ants. It took me a few seconds to realize that the ants were crawling up my leg as well and stared to bite me. While trying to get the ants of us I then realized that we were in the middle of a nomadic driver ant colony that was stretching on for who knows how far and his tent happened to be in the middle of their track. How long their track was I still do not know, I tried to follow it later but it went on too far and it was too dangerous to go deeper in to the bush.
Driver ants are really fascinating. Their colonies are always on the move and they do not have a nest. They will eat everything that gets in their path no matter how big the animal is. Their colonies can exist of more than 20 million ants and their Soldiers are some of the biggest ant species in the world. They have massive jaws that can clip your skin and tear small pieces of flesh. These colonies stretch out for hundreds of meters like an unstoppable juggernaut. It is said that if you are unable to move due either being injured or restrained they will eat you clean up to your bones. Luckily these ants are not like in the horror movies and they do not strip your flesh in matter of minutes. I imagine it would be a very slow death that would take hours.
Lucky for us once you are healthy it is quite easy to avoid these ants. As long as their colony is it was only about 3 meters wide. We side stepped their track and started to remove all the ants of us. The smaller ones were easy to just hit of but some of the bigger soldier ants were really stuck in our skin and needed to be taken out one by one.
That night my father slept in my tent and the following morning we moved his tent out of the Siafu track. It was an amazing trip with quite a few adventures. Moving on, our car broke down in the middle between the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro crater. After a few hours luckily a good Samaritan passed by. He towed our car over the crater wall with its 600 meter/1800 feet steep cliffs on both sides which was quite nerve-wracking.
My father and I still go adventure together whenever we can and they are some of my best memories. Quite a few trips we had planned have not happened as he has had 3 different kinds of cancer in the last 10 years and is currently on his 5th battle against cancer.
“Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.”
- Victor Hugo