Ladies, I know you don't want to think about this, but maybe it's time for a paradigm shift. With the right attitude, you and snakes can co-exist. My eco-tourism friend, Malcolm Stark, says, “If snakes were really as bad as their reputation, there'd be nobody left in Africa.”
I met my first cobra in 1986. An agent was showing us our new home in Malaysia, and my son decided to walk the dog in the yard. Suddenly she was barking more ferociously than I thought possible. A cobra was backed into a corner between my son and our dog at the end of a 15-foot leash. I screamed,”Run! Run!” But my son froze in place offering the snake time to think. The cobra assumed strike position, fanned out his hood, and weighed his options: left—no, right—no, so up and over the wall it was. My heart pounded for another half hour. Yet, given time, everyone had made the best choice, except the screamer—me. Panic attacks don't work with snakes.
My next encounter was at the home of our deputy ambassador. A guest speaker was explaining Southeast Asian medical concerns when I saw a cobra slithering up the two-story living room wall. Talk about imminent medical issues! I almost flipped out—cobras inside!—but I didn't want to scare people or embarrass the boss. I chose patience, and the snake disappeared somewhere near the ceiling.
A year later, our house guests reported “worms” in the guest bathroom. The screens in our drains were supposed to prevent intruders from the septic system, but at that moment I realized baby cobras could wiggle through the holes. When they coiled themselves around my broom handle, I knew they weren't worms, but to avoid panic, I didn't explain. I carried the “worms” outside. We plugged the drain and bought a smaller mesh the next day. Problem solved.
Years later in Ghana I took my social studies class on a field trip to a cocoa plantation. My concept: pick cocoa beans, peal them, dry them, pulverize them, and make chocolate brownies from scratch. As the guide pointed up into the trees, I looked down and realized a cobra nest lay under the leaves upon which we stood. About thirty or so babies sprung from the nest—I recognized them from Malaysia. They silently slithered over my students' shoes and fled. (Don't tell my principal.) My mouth opened to scream out a warning, but I caught myself. A student panic could freak a snake and make him bite, and a baby's bite is as serious as an adult's. Thank goodness their over-protective mom wasn't home.
Cobras are shy; they want to avoid you as much as you want to avoid them. Just be alert and prepared when traveling in snake country. Avoid tall grasses (and piles of dead leaves). Carry a poultice, like my friend, Malcolm does. It absorbs venom. But truthfully, spirited women, do not let fear of snakes keep you from adventure travel. If snakes were as bad as their reputation, I wouldn't be here.