The World Nomads Podcast: South Africa

The man who moved from shark culling to shark conservation, the photographer who survived a deadly snake bite, plus how World Nomads swings into action when something goes wrong.


South African lake Photo © Getty Images/Pierre-Yves Babelon

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Episode 5 – South Africa

South Africa is the southernmost country in Africa. It is often referred to as the “Rainbow Nation” reflecting the country's multicultural diversity, especially in the wake of apartheid, and 11 languages are spoken. With the help of travel experts, Podcast Producer Kim Napier and World Nomads' Phil Sylvester set out to discover if it’s possible to go on safari on a budget, and what happens when you go cage diving with sharks.

Hear the amazing story of the global photographer who earned a mention in Wikipedia after surviving a bite from of one of the world’s most deadly snakes.

What do you do when something goes wrong when you are traveling? From illness to natural disasters, we check in with World Nomads’ Lisa Fryar from Emergency Assistance.

And sitting alongside South African locals for a Braai, which is claimed rivals the Aussie backyard barbeque.

What's in the Episode

00:08 - Welcome

01:48 - Travel Quiz: What has this question got to do with Phil’s own trip to South Africa?

02:08 - Kim Whitaker runs a hybrid accommodation model in South Africa. It’s a vibrant youth hub option in old hotel buildings.

05:50 - Can you do a safari on a budget?

“…Once you go into these wildlife areas, it's imperative that you listen to the guides and take on-board what they say. People tend to get a little too excited when they see the wildlife” – Terry from African Budget Safaris

11:30 - Ask Phil

12:45 - Catching up with our World Nomads

13: 50 - Brian McFarlane from Great White Shark Tours

I have been a diver all my life. The biggest fear of any diver, surfer, or swimmer is a shark. So, he was an enemy as far as I was concerned…” – Brian

23:19 - Travel News with the World Nomad stuck in Bali.

28:00 - What happens when something goes wrong when traveling?

32:44 – The man who survived a bite from one of the world’s deadliest snakes.

38:54 - Quiz answer

39:42 - What's next in Episode 6?

Who's on the Show?

Kim Whitaker is a World Nomads’ affiliate and operates Once in Cape Town and Once in Joburg, a hybrid accommodation model in South Africa that also runs free local guided tours.

Terry from African Budget Safaris. We know you can pay thousands to do a safari but can you pay hundreds?

Brain McFarlane from Great White Shark Tours. Brian went from culling sharks to conserving them.

World Nomads customer Bob Hazell who was stuck in Bali after the eruption of Mount Agung.

Lisa Fryar Head of Emergency Assistance. You can find Lisa on Twitter @lisafryar and @WeAssistAus

Photographer Mark Laita shares the incredible story of being bitten by a Black Mamba and surviving. Check out the incredible pic Mark captured.

Photo credit: Mark Laita

Resources & Links

Scholarships Newsletter: Sign up for scholarships news and see what opportunities are live here.

Follow World Nomads on Instagram for the latest stories, and #WorldNomads for your chance to be featured.

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About World Nomads & The Podcast

Explore your boundaries and discover your next adventure with The World Nomads Podcast. Hosted by Podcast Producer Kim Napier and World Nomads Phil Sylvester, each episode will take you around the world with insights into destinations from travelers and experts. They’ll share the latest in travel news, answer your travel questions and fill you in on what World Nomads is up to, including the latest scholarships and guides.

World Nomads is a fast-growing online travel company that provides inspiration, advice, safety tips and specialized travel insurance for independent, volunteer and student travelers traveling and studying most anywhere in the world. Our online global travel insurance covers travelers from more than 135 countries and allows you to buy and claim online, 24/7, even while already traveling.

The World Nomads Podcast is not your usual travel Podcast. It’s everything for the adventurous, independent traveler. Don’t miss out. Subscribe today.

Announcer: The World Nomads podcast. It's not your usual travel podcast. It's everything for the adventurous independent traveler.

Kim: Welcome to our podcast delivered by World Nomads, the travel life style and insurance brand, covering more than half a million travelers, nice to be with you. My name is Kim.

Phil: And I'm Phil and this is our fifth destination podcast, this time exploring South Africa. Other episodes you can download via iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, and they include Croatia, Canada, Iceland and [00:00:30] Panama.

Don't forget the Panama episode, because it turns out it's much more than just the canal. It sounds like a fantastic destination.

Kim: I could not agree more. Would not have even had it on my radar until we starting researching it for the World Nomads podcast. In fact, 2018, it's top of the places shortlisted for our holiday. That is Panama, check it out. This episode though, South Africa, Phil.

Phil: The southern most country of Africa, of course, hence the name. It's often referred to as the rainbow nation to describe the [00:01:00] country's multi-cultural diversity, especially in the wake of apartheid, and the place, in fact, has 11 different languages. But of course, the most commonly used is a form of English, I've been there, but it is English.

Kim: We'll talk about you being there in this podcast. There are a couple of things that come to mind when I think about South Africa. Safaris and cage diving with sharks, we'll explore both in this episode. We'll find out how to experience, though, a safari on a budget, hear Brian McFarlane's amazing story of culling sharks [00:01:30] to protecting them, and speaking of amazing stories, how about the bloke who survived a bite from one of the world's most venomous snakes. That's coming up as well. Plus, travel news in which Phil catches up with an Aussie stranded in Bali after the eruption of Mount Agung, ask Phil, and Phil's quiz question as we focus on South Africa.

Phil: Okay, a bit cryptic for you this weekend.

Kim: It is. King, king or [inaudible 00:01:54] like that.

Phil: King, King, at what time is her flight coming in, the one where the moonlit [00:02:00] wings reflect the stars that guide me toward salvation. What time is her flight? The answer at the end of the show.

Kim: Kim Whittaker runs a hybrid accommodation model in South Africa it's called Once in Cape Town and another hostel called Once in Joburg. Now, the accom is a vibrant kind of youth hub option in an old hotel building, so they're really cool, and along with accommodation, they have an explore section with local free guided tours every day, which Kim will touch on this chat and they are super cool. But, to kickstart [00:02:30] the podcast, I ask Kim for a snapshot of South Africa.

Kim Whittaker: So, first of all, it's a place with a very, very amenable climate, so it's usually got amazing weather. Beautiful landscapes, there are a whole bunch of micro climates, so you'll find Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and every in between have got very different climates, so there's always a beach to sit on every time of the year, no matter [00:03:00] what the time of the year is.

Apart from the amazing natural beauty like Table Mountain and the Drakensberg, we've also got amazing wildlife, so if seeing the five is on your list of things to do, then the Kruger Park or Pilanesberg Park or the Addo Elephant Park is really a place to go. So, in nature, these are nature conservation areas where the big five exists, so lions and elephants [00:03:30] and all the rest.

Kim: Fantastic. Can you name a few things then to do off the beaten track.

Kim Whittaker: So, some of the things that we offer include going into a township for a braai, a braai is South Africa's version of a barbie. Basically, it is getting together with new friends and just cooking an enormous amount of meat in the middle of the township, so you're surrounded by chefs and [00:04:00] the particular township we visit in Cape Town is called Guguletu, in Soweto we go to a place called Chaf Pozi, which is in Soweto and we really experience township life, so proper, amazing South African hip hop music, great local beers.

Another of the beaten track adventure that you can do is a cocktail experience in Alexandria township in Johannesburg. We also do trips to local farmers markets. [00:04:30] There are a whole variety of different trips one can do.

Kim: So you can help travelers that stay with you experience those ... the barbie sounds fantastic and so do the cocktails.

Kim Whittaker: No, absolutely. And we do little walking tours around Bo-Kaap, which is a very historical brakke kind of area in Cape Town. Showing off our Cape Town is really key, so perhaps [00:05:00] one of the staff, one of the guys at reception, maybe one of his friends is hosting a skating party, so he'll invite people to come join if they want to, listen to some live music, do some skating. Every day is different.

Kim: Okay, well, sounds fantastic. Where would a World Nomad find you?

Kim Whittaker: Any one of Cape Town's top coffee bars is where I would literally be found most of the time. We've also got amazing coffee, which is great, but if they wanted to find us online, [00:05:30] you'd head to our website, which is or online you can find us at Once in Cape Town, that's #OnceinCapeTown or #OnceinJoburg or @onceyouthhotels.

Kim: Thank you, sounds like you're enjoying your coffee, we will put those links in our show notes and Phil, you've been lucky enough to go on a safari in South Africa.

Phil: One of the most travel experiences I've ever had. It was also one of the most expensive, by the way, but it was a special [00:06:00] trip. Absolutely amazing, open camp, so you had to be escorted from your room to the main building, by somebody carrying a rifle at all the times, because also it's a wild game, were just wondering in and out of the camp.

We got shown to our room and it had a plunge pool and on the edge of a river and looked over and there was a big pile of animal droppings down there and I said, "What's that from?" And apparently, it was an elephant.

I just wanted to know if you could get that on room service. Absolutely [00:06:30] amazing experience. Saw leopards and everything.

Kim: Well, we caught up Terry to find out how to save some money with African budget safaris, so obviously, with Phil, we've learned that you can pay thousands, but can you pay hundreds?

Terry: You can definitely pay hundreds. There are guys out here that offer a safari from I would say that the least amount that you'd be expected to pay would be about $100 US to $120 US [00:07:00] and you can pay up to two, three thousand dollars a night. So, there's a huge variety of operators out there offering everything from budget camping tours where it's participation where you're expected to help put up your own tent, help with the cleaning up after the meals and that's obviously the real budget stuff, but you'd be looking at about $100 to $120 [00:07:30] a day and that would include all your meals, all your game drives, transports, you name it.

The only thing that would be required of you, there is a lot of participation. Obviously, these real budget trips really appeal to that 18 to 39 market that really don't mind roughing it and traveling in a larger group as well.

For the more discerning client, there's everything in between, so [00:08:00] if you're had $150 plus, you could easily find a really comfortable, small group, large style safari where the only difference would be your level of accommodation, would not be the same level as say, a londolozi or one of the five start guides.

The South African tourism industry caters for every single budget and [00:08:30] age group out there. It really is a very comprehensive market.

Kim: So that budget, you don't mean, look, you might see some wildlife, but you might not.

Terry: No, not at all. The wildlife, whether you're paying $5000 US a night or whether you're paying $100 a night, the wildlife is the same. You're going to be going into the Kruger or the Greater [00:09:00] Kruger or any other parks and you're still going to be in a four by four vehicle and your chances are just as good in spotting the game.

Kim: When you're doing a safari, you are heading into the wildlife territory, I would suspect that there are some pretty strict rules.

Terry: It's very strict. Once you go into these wildlife areas, it's imperative that you listen to the guides and take aboard what they say. [00:09:30] People tend to get a little too excited when they see the wildlife and they jump up and shout and scream, and there are various reactions that we've seen over the years. As a whole, it's a very strict briefing that's given right at the beginning and 99% of people do adhere by it.

Especially if you go with a safari company, you normally see the main transgressors or issues that arise is when people decide to do the self-drive option [00:10:00] and they drive themselves into the park, but yes, we've had cases of arriving at waterholes and looking across the waterhole and seeing people sitting out having a picnic next to the waterhole.

The transgressions, you could write a book about them. But, should you go with a safari company, the dangers of the bush are explained to you from the word go.

Kim: Well, there are those dangers that [00:10:30] are there. I would love to do a safari, but I'm not particularly comfortable around animals, so if a lion was to come close to one of the vehicles, for instance, I'd be less inclined to be jumping up and down and going, "Wow." I'm sure you've come across people who've felt nervous. Is it safe?

Terry: It's completely safe. The wildlife will see a vehicle and they will see the outline of the vehicle and they'll see the vehicle as the object. They will not see you [00:11:00] as a person sitting in the vehicle. If you were to say, jump up and your head would go beyond the ceiling of the vehicle, they'll notice that, but they don't discern the humans inside the vehicle. They only see the vehicle.

Kim: So we're not a traveling snack pack.

Terry: Definitely not.

Kim: Thank you so much Terry, for the chat.

Terry: Brilliant, that's great. Thanks a stat.

Kim: [00:11:30] Links to African Budget Safaris in our show notes now.

Announcer: And now, ask Phil.

Phil: Plenty of questions about driving around South Africa. We've all heard stories about carjacking, but in fact, self-driving around the country's easy and pretty safe. Watch out for the baboons and elephants on the road though. One of the most popular questions on Ask a Nomad is this one from Ella Ward, "Which is the best way to travel from Johannesburg to Mozambique via the Kruger Park?"

[00:12:00] Renate's answer, echoed by many others was to rent a car and self-drive. The N4, that's the name of the highway, is excellent and easy to drive, says Renate, but it's not a cheap option. If you want to save money, catch a bus from Joburg to Nelspruit and hire a car from there. It saves yourself a bit of a boring drive as well, by the way.

It's also worth noting that taking a hired car across the border into Mozambique requires the permission of the South African hire company and you'll have to pay extra for the Mozambique insurance cover too. World Nomad's [00:12:30] travel insurance, don't worry about that excess waiver they ask you to pay, it's covered by your insurance.

Announcer: Oh wow.

Phil: If you have a travel question, or think you can provide some insight, go to and Ask a Nomad.

Announcer: Well, speaking of nomads, let's check in with them, and given we'll hear from a guy later in the episode who survived a bite from one of the world's most venomous snakes. We ask, "Who's been bitten by an animal while traveling?"

Phil: I haven't not so far, but there's still time.

Speaker 6: Bed bugs. [00:13:00] I was bitten about bed bugs here. We got a unit, but the problem was, the only problem was bed bugs, yeah, it was really hard time.

Speaker 7: No, it would be the same. I was in Spain and we're staying in some university as a host accommodation and yeah, it would be bed bugs as well. That was the day before I left and came back to Australia, so I just had a whole rash here on my arm and yeah, it wasn't fun at all.

Speaker 8: No, not yet, [00:13:30] thank you, God from nothing been happen with me here in Australia. Thank God.

Speaker 9: Okay, a mosquito but doesn't count.

Speaker 10: I would like to say, a red-backed spider or one of them, but no.

Speaker 11: Shot?

Speaker 10: Shot, yeah, well I'll call my travel insurance for that so I can get [inaudible 00:13:48], but yeah, yeah.

Kim: This chat I think is great. Brian McFarlane operates Great White Shark Tours in South Africa and before I could even throw him my first question, he anticipated [00:14:00] what I was going to ask and I just really didn't expect his answer.

Brian McFarlane: I think one of your questions is going to be when did you start this business or can we wait until you actually interview me and ask me about this question.

Kim: No, well you can kick right into it. When did you start the business?

Brian McFarlane: You know, 20 years ago, we start ... let me even go before that. There was a period in my life that you didn't worry about conservation and being a fisherman and having [00:14:30] these great white sharks around in the area, I would subsidize my income by going up and catching them with rod and line and with an anchor and a chain and a buoy. I'm not proud of that.

When the people got to hear about it throughout the world, people from all around the world used to come and catch a great white with me. I had a charter business catching these guys, which I don't really [00:15:00] like even to talk about, which was a bleak period in my life, when you're young and you don't worry, but about in 1991, the government stopped all catching of great whites and killing them in South Africa and slowly, I saw the demand to go out and view them, and that was basically 20 years ago.

I had a small boat and we went out to this Dyer Island, which is 9 kilometers out to sea and we took tourists [00:15:30] out. We took six at a time, six people at a time and took them attracting the sharks near the boat and showed the people these beautiful animals. That was the start of this massive business, which it is today.

Kim: Brian, when you were catching the sharks and you were morally aware that it wasn't the right thing to do, were you still aware of beautiful creatures they are?

Brian McFarlane: Not really, I've been a diver all my life and the biggest fear of any [00:16:00] diver, surfer or swimmer is a shark, so he was an enemy as far as I was concerned, any good shark was a dead shark. There was no remorse, there was no feeling of, "Oh, I've killed this beautiful animal," but, and I say but, the more I started to work with them and preserve them and look after them and show the clients or the people or my friends, the more respect you got for them, the more you learned about them, the more you saw [00:16:30] they weren't the mindless animals that you imagine them to be and they're certainly not swimming around the ocean looking to see where's the next human being I can catch or kill or maim or eat, because human beings are definitely not on their food chain at all.

Kim: So, why are we so obsessed with great whites then?

Brian McFarlane: You know why, and the only thing I can think of because so little is known about them. This is the big [00:17:00] thing. So little is known about them, that possibly the only animal in the sea that's so little is known about. You might say why not? Because they can't be kept in captivity. Nowhere in the world, can a great white be kept in captivity.

They've tried it in California, they've tried it in America in different places, in these massive oceanariums. They're very stressful animals and after a while, they die, so they can't be kept in captivity, they can't be studied. [00:17:30] You can't learn more about them. The only way you can learn about them is in their natural environment in the sea.

So little is known about them that people are just ignorant to what they do. Every now and again, somebody in the world, someone will get bitten or attacked by a shark and it'll make headline news whereas, thousands of people, thousands of people get killed on a [00:18:00] yearly basis by mosquitoes, snakes, elephants, lions, and it's a small issue, but if someone gets attacked by a shark, it's a massive issue.

I actually gave a talk once and I'm telling you statistically, there are 750,000 people die in the world from mosquitoes, and ten people in the world die from shark attacks throughout the world. Isn't that a crazy [00:18:30] statistic? But, if someone dies of a mosquito bit or malaria, it's nothing. But, if someone gets attacked and bitten by a great white, it's a massive brouhaha in the paper or the news.

Kim: In terms of the cage diving, the experience that you offer, you put how many people in a cage, and how far into the water do you submerge it.

Brian McFarlane: Our boats are huge now. We carry up to 40 people at a time. Five crew and the cage, obviously, the bigger the boat, the bigger the cage [00:19:00] and we put eight people in a cage at a time. The cage is not under the water. It's two meters high and it's about two feet of the cage or half a meter of the cage sticks out of the water. It floats and it's tied to the boat. We attract the shark to the boat. We put the people in suits. We put them in the cage. They put their bodies in the water, their shoulders and their heads above the water.

When the shark comes in close enough, [00:19:30] we've attracted him with bait, we tell the people "The shark's coming from the left, the shark's coming the right, go down." They've got hand rails and foot rails. They hold onto the hand rail, they lower their heads into the water, submerge themselves, not even, I don't know if you're talking feet or meters, but half a meter and they look straight into the shark's face or head or body and then, when they breathe, there's a breath hold situation, when they're breath is finished, they pop up again [00:20:00] breathe. That's the way it's done. Anybody and everybody can do diving. We have people from all walks of life, everywhere in the world. Some of them have never even swum before, but they can dive. They can dive, and so everybody that comes on the boat can dive.

Kim: Now that is super interesting, do you agree?

Phil: Fascinating.

Kim: But, there was one question I had to ask Brian, I do apologize, as he explained the experience. You can't tell me that you don't [00:20:30] want to know.

Has anyone ever popped themselves?

Brian McFarlane: You know, I'm telling you, I take a thousand people a month, a thousand people from all walks of life, being males, females, big, small, fat, thin, they have pooped themselves. They've peed themselves, because as you take the seat up, you get the different smells from the different shock systems, which they have and people have, in your words, [00:21:00] have pooped themselves already, but, but, but, in saying that, the biggest satisfaction I get out of this job is educating the unknown to these people, showing them the beauty, showing them the grace, showing them this magnificent animal and changing the mindset from the monster.

Ninety percent of the people that come with us, they said, "Is the boat big enough, is the cage strong enough? Is the shark going to attack? Is the steel [00:21:30] strong enough?" We show them the beauty of the animal, the gracefulness, and we change the mindset and the people go away saying, "Wow, I can't believe that is such a peaceful, graceful, beautiful animal."

The big thing is, and this is the big thing. In the world, millions upon millions of sharks are getting caught and killed and their fins cut off because the people are ignorant and they think it's a monster. They walk past or they buy it, or [00:22:00] they walk past a shop, they say, "That's all right, he's a monster," but hopefully, part of our job is to educate people and show people the beauty and the gracefulness and that he's not a monster, he's not attacking the cage, he's not attacking the boat, he's only doing his job [inaudible 00:22:17] and they go away with a different mindset. When they see that again, they say, "That's not right. That must stop," and hopefully we're making an impact in the world that people will stop killing and culling sharks for their fins and their bodies [00:22:30] because they've got this terrible reputation.

Kim: Well I had to ask, had to ask and nicely finished up there Brian, who, by the way, is a bit of a legend in the shark conservation world. I think he's done 55 movies. We'll have links to Great White Shark Tours in our show notes, and he also extended an invitation to the World Nomads crew to experience a dive, do you reckon you'd poop yourself, Phil?

Phil: Yeah, very probably.

Kim: I reckon I can do it. I reckon I could do [00:23:00] it.

Phil: Yes. It would be thrilling, absolutely, but I think I could do it as well, although I have seen those pictures where a great white does manage to get through a cage somewhere once, so that would be in the back of my mind.

Kim: Not with Brian. Okay. Before we hear that amazing story of the man that survived a bite from one of the world's most venomous snakes, let's get your travel news.

Phil: The volcano on the Indonesian island of Bali, finally erupted after threatening to do so for several weeks. The airport has been closed intermittently depending on the prevailing [00:23:30] wind blowing the ash cloud over airspace. The result is, that thousands of travelers were stranded while the holiday plans of hundreds more having to get to the island were in tatters.

One of the people stuck on Bali is World Nomads customer Bob Hazel and I spoke to him by phone just a few days ago.

Bob Hazel: How are you?

Phil: I'm okay, thank you very much, thanks for asking. You guys, you all right? Like I said, worst places to be stuck, right?

Bob Hazel: Yeah, exactly. Sorry, just finished a little bite there. No, we could be a [00:24:00] lot worse off. As bad as it is here, I just got to wait until the guy's finished the ash out of the pool before I can go for a swim, that's about the extent of our travels, apart from, obviously, missing the flight, but as we have no prior arrangements back in Australia, we're a bit time free at the moment, which is a very handy spot to be in.

I think a lot of other people are probably a lot worse off in that respect.

Phil: Yeah, when did you get there mate? Were you aware of [00:24:30] the potential for an eruption when you went?

Bob Hazel: Yeah. We were aware that it's been happening because a similar eruption, I'm sure you're aware of, I didn't know whether it canceled flights and all, but something similar happened in September and they were saying it was imminent. But then, being downgraded to, I think, the orange level, which is one below the red, so we were aware of it, as it's always in your mind, knowing where we are and the history of things. After speaking to the locals, because there was also, when we were going to [00:25:00] a few of the restaurants, there were some charity organizations helping to feed the people that were still evacuated from the area, so we knew it was still a potential problem and it was something people were talking about, but it's something that you hope that it's not going to affect you too much, I suppose.

Phil: And so, when were you first aware an eruption had happened? Were you told about it, or did you feel it?

Bob Hazel: No, we didn't feel it at all. Where we are here, we're [00:25:30] in Ubud, but I think it's about 40 kilometers from Mount Agung. We can see it when we go to the flat area, so I was just looking at it yesterday, all of smoke still coming out the top of the volcano and you can obviously see the ash on the ground here a little bit. Nowhere near as thick as what it would be in other areas, but we can still see it here.

We were first made aware the following morning. I think I read that it first erupted at 5:30 p.m. and we found out the next morning [00:26:00] when we got up, there was, two of the young guys, staff members here were working, and then they made us aware. You could tell there was something wrong. They didn't tell us straight away, but when we asked them what the matter was, they told us what had happened and they were really concerned for their family and wellbeing and we figured everything out from there.

We didn't have to actually check out of our accommodation and we were easily able to extend, which was really helpful there. Yesterday, we [00:26:30] met a lot of locals who were all quite concerned. They were telling us that they were taping up the windows, stocking up their food supplies, getting emergency procedures, preparing for the worst case scenario in stocking up and that's been more of an emphasis here.

There's an increased number of people wearing masks around the streets and on the bikes on the roads.

Phil: We've [00:27:00] met before, haven't we? We've helped you and your partner Mahler out previously as well, so ...

Bob Hazel: In a big way. Yeah, absolutely. I was actually, even before, the World Nomads team helped out Mahler. I was helped out myself. I was very fortunate in [inaudible 00:27:19]. I didn't even actually have to deal with anything at all, it was all dealt with between World Nomads and the treating doctor when I spent a night in hospital with altitude sickness. But then, [00:27:30] after that, yeah, after, where we've met you, Lisa, the whole team at World Nomads and had amazing help after my partner Mahler got sick in India with encephalitis and spent the following six weeks in hospital before being flown back to Australia.

Phil: Well, happy to report that Bob is home, safe and well and in that chat there, we mentioned Lisa Frey from our emergency assistance team. And guess what? We got her in the studio with us now. Hi [00:28:00] Lisa.

Lisa: Hello.

Phil: She doesn't want to be talking to you if you're a traveler, because that's really when it's gone pear shaped, right?

Lisa: Yeah. If you're a traveler in trouble though, you do want to be talking to our team. It's what we're there for, and emergency assistance ranges from anything, I've lost my passport, I've missed my flights, I'm homesick, what do I do, right up to I'm having a heart attack, I'm really unwell, get me out of here.

Kim: Homesick. You genuinely get calls from people saying, "I'm homesick."

Lisa: [00:28:30] We actually got one case on at the moment of someone who's homesick and we've got a medical team that are available 24/7 as well. Homesick can result in a whole range of different things as well. If we have a young traveler who is seriously homesick, we can talk them through what they need to do, give them some advice, some general things on, they might want to go sightseeing things.

If they really want to come home, then we can put them in touch with a travel agent or the airline of mom and dad and yes, [00:29:00] they come home.

Phil: Can you also prescribe a cup of concrete and them to harden up?

Lisa: You're terrible Phil.

Phil: I know, but come on.

Kim: We love our travelers, Phil.

Phil: Okay. This is why I'm not in the EA team, all right?

Kim: Exactly. Is it a genuine claim though?

Lisa: No, it's not a genuine claim, unless it results in something else like mental health issues, self-harming, anything like that, so they're the kinds of flags that we would look out for.

Phil: There's a white board over in the EA team area, which has the worst of the worst that's going on at the moment. [00:29:30] What sort of things do we get up on those boards? What have we got at the moment?

Lisa: We do have a few cases on at the moment, but probably the worst of the worst that I've seen, certainly in my career of a World Nomads traveler, we did have a 31 year old male in Jaipur in India who had been sightseeing at the palace and when he walked out, he was mauled by a bull. It was pretty horrific. He was with his fiancee at the time and sadly he passed away a day later. That's the worst that can happen.

Kim: So you would [00:30:00] assist the family with bringing that poor man back?

Lisa: That's right. He was Argentinian, and so even though his policy was from New Zealand, we took him back to his family in Argentina. His fiancee was from Finland, and so what we did was we sent her home to Argentina with him so that she could be with the family at the time of when they were doing the funeral, and then we will send her back to Finland when she's ready.

Kim: Wow. What a job.

Phil: That's terrible for them as well, [00:30:30] but that must affect you as well when you're handling those sorts of cases.

Lisa: It does actually, and it's the whole team. Death is absolutely the worst case that we can get, and it's the most, in terms of sensitivities around our cases, it's the most sensitive case we have and our team get really affected by those, especially when there's a young person like a 31-year-old male.

We do have medical staff. We do have some debriefing sessions. We've got our EAP counseling. We've got a special little room [00:31:00] that we call the chill out room, so if you're really upset about something, you just go to the chill out room, go for a walk, or whatever, you just go and get some down time.

Kim: And conversely, do you get hammered by some people that are very stressed about making a claim?

Lisa: Yes.

Kim: Or seeking assistance.

Lisa: Last week, for example, we had the Bali ash cloud, where we were smashed, not in an alcoholic way, but we were absolutely smashed. On top of that, we also had 55 critical medical cases that we were dealing with so we had a guy that we brought [00:31:30] down in Kathmandu. We brought him down from Everest base camp where he was having his fingers amputated because of frost bite.

In between that case, to someone stuck in Bali that couldn't get out for two days, and wanted to return home for work, yeah, we absolutely smashed. It's a way of, how do we put a different hat on to tell someone, "Look, we need to put this into perspective. We'd love to help you out with a Leer jet into Bali over an ash cloud, but we just can't," and then still help [00:32:00] our young guy in Nepal as well.

Kim: Yeah. Well, we are about to hear from a guy who's been bitten by one of Africa's most dangerous snakes. Would you be covered for snake bite?

Lisa: Yes.

Kim: Definitely.

Lisa: Well, no. We've had had a case that wasn't covered for a snake bite and this was a pit viper in Vietnam. The reason it wasn't covered, it was 3:00 in the morning, the guy was getting out of a swimming pool. He saw a pit viper. He [00:32:30] claims to have seen a pit viper, swung it around his head, he grabbed a hold of it, swung it around a few times and flung it into the jungle. He'd actually placed himself in needless risk.

Kim: So that's recklessness as you often ...

Phil: That's it, yep.

Kim: Well let's hear this guy's story. Thanks, Lisa.

Now Phil. The black mamba, it's one of Africa's most feared and respected snakes. It's super fast, I know. It's super intelligent and shrewd. Some even say it has magical abilities, [00:33:00] which adds to the myth and the mystery of the black mamba.

One of these myths is the mamba bites its tail, makes itself into a loop so that it can roll downhill. As it comes to the bottom, it straightens like an arrow and attacks.

Phil: I have a sense this like a joke. This is like the poop snake.

Kim: This is a ... one more. Another myth maintains the snake, being super intelligent as I said, plans attacks on humans. It ambushes a car by waiting [00:33:30] on the side of the road, then coils itself around the wheel to bite the driver when he reaches his destination.

Phil: Okay. Let's see how smart they are when they meet a shovel.

Kim: Mark Leder is a photographer and author and it was when he was shooting for his book Serpentine, he was actually bitten by a black mamba. I can hear you giggling about those myths, Mark.

Mark: Yeah, I don't know if the snake is that intelligent, but there are so many people [00:34:00] that are terrified of snakes that it doesn't surprise me that there are stories like that.

Kim: You've been bitten by one. These snakes, up until anti-venom was available, were deadly. You're gone within 20 minutes, and in some places, throughout Africa where you can't get to a hospital quick enough to have the anti-venom, people die. But, you survived.

Mark: Yeah. I had been working on my book Serpentine, as you mentioned and I'd been photographing hundreds and hundreds of snakes, and they're all about two or three feet long, [00:34:30] and when a snake is two or three feet long, you can kind of judge how quickly it can move towards you, if it was even going to do that.

I kind of knew what I was dealing with, and we photographed all kinds of venomous and non-venomous snakes and I was preconditioned to know what was possible with all these snakes. And then, I shot this black mamba with a ... somebody owned, it was a collector basically, he had many different snakes [00:35:00] from all over the world, he was in Central America.

The black mamba I was shooting was 14 feet long.

Phil: Okay. Now we're getting to see the snake territory.

Kim: That's huge.

Mark: I didn't quite figure out how a 14-foot long snake can just use part of its body to propel the rest of its body to do whatever it wants, very, very quickly. It didn't really do anything quickly, I was just standing over it, photographing it and I looked away or something, and it [00:35:30] had wrapped itself around my ankle. Not in an aggressive way, it just did this.

I grew up catching snakes as a kid, so I wasn't really terrified of it, and I knew not to move or jump or do anything quickly, so I just asked the snake handler to get me my little Canon point and shoot camera instead of the big camera I was using for the book [00:36:00] and I just hooked up the strobe, which is this red wire that hooks up to the strobe and I was just taking about 20 or 30 photos of this once in a lifetime moment where I have a black mamba wrapped around my leg.

While I was taking all these photos, the snake handler said, "All right, enough of that," and he grabbed his metal hook and he went to pull the snake slowly off my leg. My face is behind the camera, so I didn't see anything, I [00:36:30] felt something on my leg, which I thought was just his hook hitting my leg, and he pulled the snake off and everything's fine and I'm going back, changing cameras and maybe 30 seconds have gone by and he goes, "Dude, you got hit." I look and there's blood just gushing down my calf into my shoe.

He goes, "How do you feel?" I'm like, "Well, I feel fine, except I just got bitten by a black mamba," but now I'm getting all nervous. [00:37:00] He goes, "How's your heart rate? How's your ... how's your heart, how's your breathing? Are you dizzy or anything like that?" He asked me three questions, that was fine.

I think black mambas have, a lot of snakes do, they have heat sensors behind their jaw and it was amazing how both fangs hit that major artery in your calf, in my calf. Both of them, and that's why I bled so heavily. He goes, "Well, [00:37:30] it's clearly into your blood system. If there was venom, you'd be feeling it. You'd be dizzy, you'd be passed out, you'd be dead."

Because now, two, three, four minutes have passed and he's like, "How do you feel now? How do you feel now?" I'm like, "I still feel fine. Nothing's really happening." We were basically done with the photos and I packed up and I left and went back to the hotel and later on that evening at dinner, I'm looking through the camera, the little screen on the back of it, looking at all these [00:38:00] photos, and there's 20 or 30 of them, but there's one that looks like, they're very small, so you really can't see too much detail, and, "Man, that looks like he's biting me in that one photo."

So, I get back to my hotel room later, I was at dinner. I go back to the hotel room, I put it up on a laptop screen and I blow it up and sure enough, I have this amazing photo of a black mamba sinking its jaws into my calf. I failed to mention when the snake handler pulled the snake away with the hook, he snagged [00:38:30] that red cord that was hanging and connected to the strobe, so that cord started shaking and that's what scared the snake and made it strike.

Kim: That is an amazing story that earned Mark a mention in Wikipedia and he's kindly given us permission to share the photo in our show notes and you've got to check that photo out, it's quite incredible, isn't it?

Phil: Unbelievable. Thank you, but no thank you.

Kim: Right. Phil, let's wrap up with the answer to your quiz question, and that was, it was like a riddle.

Phil: [00:39:00] What time is her flight coming in. The one where the moonlit wings reflect the stars that guide me toward salvation? What time is her flight? 12:30. I'm talking about the Toto song, Africa. I left the plains ...

Kim: That was a great song.

Phil: That's the one.

Kim: Here's the snippet.

Phil: It was [00:39:30] my theme song driving around South Africa as well. We kept putting that on.

Kim: Listen, well next episode is our Christmas special where we'll explore hot vs. cold. Not hot chicken vs. cold chicken for lunch, but for Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere compared to the Northern Hemisphere. Subscribe, share, write on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher and Phil, contact [00:40:00] us at ...

Phil: Do it. We want to hear from you.

Announcer: The World Nomads podcast. Explore your boundaries.

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  • Ignacio said

    Great podcast guys! Nice content.

  • Windsor Crawford said

    Can you send the list of places that were mentioned as local places and the best place to cage dive with sharks? I can not spell the places that were mentioned and want to visit on our trip to South Africa.

  • Kim Napier said

    Hi Windsor, the best place to dive with sharks is Great White Shark Tours, highly regarded. Kruger Park, Pilanesberg Park or the Addo Elephant Park is apparently a nice place to visit. There's also Chaf Pozi, which is in Soweto and Alexandria township in Johannesburg.

    I hope this helps and thankyou for reaching out. Enjoy your travels.


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