I have been fortunate to spend the last few days on the Nelspruit/Sabie/Graskop route, dropping off our own brochures and forging relationships with the other attraction operators and accomodation facilities in this beautiful area. It has really opened my eyes - after nearly 13 years of living in the Lowveld, I didn't realise just how many amazing things there are to do, and beautiful attractions there are to experience, all so close to Nelspruit!
Some of them I have driven past almost daily - how many of you knew we had a waterpark at Riverside mall, built by the same guys who did U-Shaka? A bit smaller in scale, for sure, but what a fun way to keep the kids busy on a hot Lowveld day after vising Perry's Bridge Reptile Park in Hazyview - (and a great excuse for mum and dad to keep cool too!). Visit Mafunyane.com for all the details!
Closer to home, right beside Perry's Bridge Reptile Park in the Perry's Bridge Centre, is Skyway Trails treetop challenge, a short rope course built to European standards, and designed to provide fun and build confidence - great for the kids, but great for teambuilding as well! Skyway Trails also offers a full length canopy tour which is well worth the time - drive through from Nelspruit, visit us, then pop on over and say hello to the guys there! And enjoy lunch at Spur, Kuka or Topolinos as well!
Chimp Eden is one of Nelspruit's wildlife attractions, just out of town on the Barberton Road. Make sure you visit their website first, as their tours operate at scheduled times and you don't want to be disappointed by arriving too late. The chimps are amazing, and the stories behind their arrival at the sanctuary may just break your heart a little....but it will be warmed by the care and compassion they so visibly receive today.
Heading out of Nelspruit and up to Graskop, stop off at the tripsza office to catch up on all of the opportunities available to you. Pilgrim's Rest is, of course, just up the road, and you can experience yesteryear by hiring costumes and enjoying a photoshoot at Kuzzulo's Emporium!
Graskop itself is the "hop-off" point for the stunning Panorama Route - the waterfalls of Sabie, God's Window, The Pinnacle, Bourke's Luck Potholes, and the Blyde Viewpoint are all just a short drive from the busy little town (with it's amazing curio shops!), and is just up the road from Hazyview where you will, of course, find us!.
Do you know of any "local secrets" to the best things to see and do around Nelspruit, Sabie and Graskop? If so, please let us know in the comments section below, we love to be able to give our guests great advice!
Puff Adder (Bitis arietans)
Species: Puff Adder (Bitis arietans)
What does the name mean? I have been unable to find the origin, or meaning, of the term "Bitis" except that it used to describe the African vipers that have a common threat display that involves hissing loudly whilst inflating and deflating their bodies, keeled scales, and a distinctive triangular head. The Puff adder (Bitis arietans) was the first to be described (type species) by German naturalist Blasius Merrem in 1820. All subsequent adders found in Africa with similar characteristics have been placed in this genus.
The first description the species was Clotho arietans. "Clotho" was the Greek Goddess of fate, the spinner of the thread of destiny.
The word "arietans" is also quite vague in its origin but more than likely is derived from the Latin words "arieto","arietare", and "arietatus" which when translated means "to strike violently"
Description: This is a thick robust heavily built snake. It has the distinctive triangular head normally associated with the genus.
The average length for these snakes is 90cm-1.1m (2.95ft-3.28ft). There are however records of specimens exceeding 1.9m (6.23ft) although this is rare. What these snakes lack in length, they make up in bulk. Specimens exceeding 4kg (8.8 lbs) are not uncommon.
The puff adder (like most members of the Viperidae family), is an ambush predator and thus colours vary greatly depending on the geographic location. It is also not uncommon to find a variation in colour within a relatively small area.
Dorsally, colours range from yellow,light brown, dark brown, orange, ochre, tan, beige overlaid with black lighter edged chevron shaped bands on the body and black cross-bands on the tail. Typically there are between 16-23 chevron shaped markings. The belly is white or yellow with several dark blotches randomly scattered along the length of the body.
The markings on the head consist of two oblique dark bands that extend from the eye to the supralabials, and dark blotches on the crown and between the eyes.
The term "cryptic colouration" is often used to describe the appearance of puff adders.
The colouration and heavily keeled scales give this species a generally dull appearance, although there have been some particularly bright specimens recorded from some regions (Eastern Cape). A striped phase of the species has also been recorded.
These snakes have "front-hinged" fangs situated at the front of the mouth which fold into the roof of the mouth within a protective sheath when the mouth is closed. When the mouth opens the fangs unfold outwards, similar to the action of a "switch-blade".
Venom: The venom is cytotoxic (tissue destroying). This species is responsible for more fatalaties than any other African snake, including the Black Mamba . This statistic is slightly misleading and bears no relevance to the potency of the venom itself. Although the puff adder is classified as the most dangerous snake in Africa, it is neither the deadliest, nor the most venomous snake in Africa.
Although bites are common, only a small proportion results in human fatality.
This may seem confusing at first, but the answer lies in the statistics. In South Africa alone the puff adder is responsible for 60% of all recorded snakebites, the remaining 40% can be divided between the other venomous snakes found in the region which includes the cobras, mambas and other members of the genusBitis.
The average venom yield per bite is between 100-300mg with the maximum yield of around 700mg.100mg is fatal in humans. A bite from this snake may result in death after 26 hours if treatment is not received.
Deep necrosis may result in severe cases which may lead to the amputation of the affected limb, and extensive reconstructive surgery is often needed.
Death usually results from kidney failure and other complications as a result of extensive swelling.
Check out this photo of a puff adder bite
Distribution: This species is the most common and widespread venomous snake in Africa. It's geographic range includes: South Africa, Namibia, Swaziland, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, Angola, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, Congo, Democratic republic of Congo (Zaire), Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Nigeria, Niger, Central African Republic, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Gambia, Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Chad, Algeria, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Yemen.
Habitat: The Puff adder is found in all habitats except for true deserts and rain forests and mountain tops. The preferred habitat for the species includes open grassland, savanna, open woodlands and rocky outcrops.
Habits: Puff adders are described as being both diurnal and nocturnal although they are mostly active at night.
This species "willingness to bite" is greatly exaggerated. As with all snakes, it is reluctant to bite unless provoked. Although I do not reccomend this, it is quite possible to stand next to a puff adder without enticing a bite.
The species is quite sluggish preferring to rely on its cryptic colouration and patterns for camouflage, and will only bite if trodden on, or surprised.
Despite its "sluggish" behaviour, this is arguably the fastest striking snake in the world. It can strike within.25 of a second both forward and to the side. Stories of them being able to strike backwards are unfounded and untrue.
These snakes are predominantly terrestrial although they have been observed climbing shrubs and small bushes.
As a result of this most bites from this species occur below the knee.
This snake is fond of swimming, and can often be found on roads at night.
When disturbed these snakes will coil themselves into a defensive posture and hiss loudly, hence its common name "Puff adder". It is a warning best heeded!
Reproduction: Puff adders are ovoviviparous. Ovoviviparity means that the young develop within an egg, and are nourished by the egg yolk, but instead of being incubated externally, the eggs are retained within the organisms body until they are ready to hatch. The average litter size is between 20-50 young. Litters of80 young have been recorded on several occasions. The record size of a litter was recorded by a large female which had a litter of 156 young.
The young measure between 13-20cm (5.1-7.87in).
The gestation period in this species is between 7-9 months although some records show a gestation period over 12 months.
Mating usually occurs in spring.
Diet: Prey items usually consist of rodents and sometimes birds.
This species does not actively hunt, but rather lies in ambush and waits for prey to come within striking distance. Prey items are seldom gripped, instead, once envenomated, the prey is released and later"tracked" by smell.
Subspecies: Two races are recognised:
Bitis arietans arietans, the common widespread puff adder.
Bitis arietans somalica found in Somalia and northern Kenya.
A third subspecies was proposed, namely Bitis arietans peghullae, but has been rejected.
Conservation StatusICUN Red List: Not evaluated
CITES: Not Listed
Snake venom can be best described as highly modified saliva that is produced by the parotid salivary gland. In snakes these glands are situated on either side of the head below and slightly behind the eyes.
It is important to note that snakes are venomous, and not poisonous as they are so often described.
So what is the difference between the two?
Venom needs to be injected either by a sting (insects), or in the case of snakes, a bite. This means that venomous animals have specific highly evolved delivery apparatus with which to inject venom.
In addition to specialised delivery methods, venomous animals also need to have specialised organs specifically designed for that purpose.
Poison needs to be ingested, or touched. Poison is generally distributed over a greater area, and generally secreted.
For example: It is possible to touch, even eat, a venomous snake and suffer no ill effects. The opposite is true for a poison dart frog (Dendrobates).
Conversely, you may allow a poison frog to bite you, not so a venomous snake.
So what is the difference? Well although both venomous and poisonous organisms may contain identical toxins, it is the delivery method of those toxins, and the way it is transported, or abosrobed in the body that differentiates between the two.
What is venom?
It is a cocktail, consisting of hundreds of different proteins and enzymes. Its proteinaceous nature was first established back in 1843 by Charles Lucien Bonaparte, the nephew of emperor Napoleon.
A vast majority of these proteins and enzymes are completely harmless to man. However, a tiny percentage of those enzymes present are considered toxins.
There are roughly 20 types of toxic enzymes present in venomous snakes. Each of these enzymes serve a specific function. The majority of venomous snakes only employ 6-12 of these toxins. No single venomous species employs all 20 toxins.
An enzyme can be described as a biological catalyst. In snakes, the enzymes speed up the chemical reaction within the afflicted organism to such an extent that the organism either dies or is immobilised.
Here are a couple of examples of the enzymes. This information was sourced from www.chm.bris.ac.uk A more detailed explanation can be found at this site.
Cholinesterase : Present in Mambas (Dendroaspis) this attacks the nervous system.
Adenosine triphosphatase : Present in most snakes and believed to be the central agents resulting in shock.
Polypeptide toxins : Disrupt the nerve-impulse transmission causing heart or respiratory failure.
There are three distinct types of venom:
Nuerotoxic : A fast acting toxin responsible for attacking the nervous system. Results in paralysis, seizures, incoherence, respiratory failure and eventually death. eg Mambas, and non-spitting cobras.
Cytotoxic : This causes immense tissue damage, and necrosis. eg Puff-adder
Haemotoxic : Responsible for attacking the cardio-vascular system causing eventual organ failure. This process is slower than aforementioned toxins. eg Pit vipers, Boomslang, and vine snake.
Carolyn Budai, owner and passionate animal person.