The Skipper Survival Guide was a special cast member guide for the Disneyland Jungle Cruise created by Walt Disney Imagineering as part of the 1994 refurbishment of the attraction done to reroute the river to accomodate the queue of Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye, with a revised edition being produced in 2005 around the time of the 50th Anniversary refurbishments.
Created for the purposes of helping immerse cast-members and skippers into a 1938 period setting and discouraging fourth wall humor, it featured the original version of the Jungle Navigation Company backstory that has since been expanded and modified by later Jungle Cruise related projects. Though meant to connect the stories of the Jungle Cruise and the Indiana Jones Adventure, there is a dating inconsistency between the two, presumably a result of minor changes in Indy's story during development. Documents within the Indiana Jones queue establishing a 1935 discovery date for the Temple, while the Survival Guide places the discovery in 1937.
- 1 Transcripts
- 1.1 The Jungle Journal
- 1.2 Professor Von Schlit's Journal
In addition to basic information on the attraction's operations, the late 1930s time period, and various character prompts meant to encourage Skippers to take on their own adventurous personas, the Skipper Survival Guide contained two stories: The Jungle Journal; chronicling the history of the outpost and Jungle Navigation Company, and the Expedition Journal of Professor Herny Von Schlit; serving as a means of describing the wildlife found in Adventureland.
The Jungle Journal
Jan. 11, 1911
It seems that my following entries will have to be typed for now on this old typewriter due to the fact that this extremely humid weather does not allow for the appropriate drying of my fountain pen's ink. I do hope that my letters home will be accepted with the same sentiment as the past handwritten ones were.
Our beautiful Victorian house is finished in this remote section of jungle and is to be used as a colonial outpost. As a last outpost of civilization, we will provide welcome relief from the harsh and hostile jungle, offering weary travelers a hot cup of tea and a place to rest. It shall be here that missionaries, scientists, and European travelers will have one final opportunity to post or receive supplies. We are very excited about our new home away from home.
Sept 11, 1928
It is with a heavy heart that I make this final entry. I have taken ill with Malaria and seriously fear for my health. Therefore, I regretfully resign this post. There have been no volunteers to replace me and I've received word that the foreign office sees no need in maintaining this outpost. The house has been put up for sale but so far there are no interested parties. I fear this lovely old house will lie in abandonment here in this secluded jungle.
Victorian House on River's edge
Former Colonial outpost
Needs work. Cheap.
Contact Smith & Smythe
482 Pressler Rd.
London, S.W. 1
April 16, 1930
Well that old colonial outpost I was telling you about is officially ours now. I think, with a little elbow grease and patience it shall serve us well as our base and home. We've already had several orders to deliver supplies to outposts and villages downriver. I think we can keep our heads above water if only our boats will. Might be able to convince the mail service to let us transport mail to all the outposts in this region. I'll keep you posted as to the progress. I found this old typewriter on the desk, I'm amazed it still works. It's a good thing too because the ink from the pen takes forever to dry.
Sept 27, 1930
Work was finally completed on the new wing of the boathouse this week. The new area will house our supply storage area, an observation platform for the passengers and our new shipping office as we have outgrown that little corner by the maintenance bay. Boy business is really picking up. Nigel suggested that we paint an advertisement on the roof to peak the interest of any passerby. I told him if he really wanted to climb up there and do it, I was not going to stop him.
We have placed an order for shortwave radios. they are not cheap, but I really think it will help out with our business, with a shortwave we can receive weather reports and even keep in contact with the launches. We should receive it in about 2 months. We hit our $1,000 mark today. That is a heck of a lot of cargo. Lets hope this business holds.
Dec 4, 1932
The depression that we have heard so much about ton the radio is, alas, taking its toll on our corner of the world. Business is progressively worsening. The shipping companies that we have dealt with freely in the past can no longer afford to do business and are closing at an alarming rate. I fear that soon we will have to rely solely on delivering mail and medicine upriver for our income. Hope the economic outlook improves soon.
If that wasn't bad enough, our outpost was struck by an enormous typhoon 2 days ago. It tore the roof off the new wing and sent several large trees crashing into our old house. I am concerned that we will not have the financial resources to make proper repairs.
Meanwhile, Herb had another run-in with the headhunters. I told him not to use the shortcut through their territory but he wouldn't listen. He lost 3 passengers this trip and most of the cargo. How he escapes time after time I don't know.
July 29, 1933
I have noticed that the humid tropical air is causing our boathouse to deteriorate at an alarming rate. Paint is peeling everywhere and the roof above our supply storage area still needs to be replaced before the rainy season starts.
Speaking of repairs, Duke rammed the boathouse just past the loading dock with his boat last night. The maintenance bay is in danger of collapsing into the river. We had to use a palm tree to prop up the second story and use railing from the side of the boathouse to support the dispatch office, as it began to separate from the building. The temporary fix will have to do as there is no money for proper repairs.
I placed Duke on ticket and booking responsibilities until further notice.
Feb 17, 1934
The most amazing thing happened today. A movie director from Hollywood stopped by. It seems he was in the area filming and in between shoots wanted to see some of the jungle wildlife firsthand. He asked if he could hire one of our skippers to take him out into the bush. No one was enthusiastic about his idea until he pulled out a roll of bills that could choke a water buffalo! Then there were plenty of volunteers. Suddenly it occurred to me! If this Hollywood guy was more then happy to shell out big bucks for a tour then there has got to be a market for this kind of business. We are toying with the idea of offering tours for paying passengers who wish to see the jungle and its creatures. I think that if we could spruce up the boathouse a bit and put out an ad campaign then we might actually make a go at this. Details later.
Seems a cobra got loose in the Lost and Found area up by the dispatch office. Darn tourists and their souvenirs! No one wants to go up and catch it so we are hoping it will just leave on its own.
August 16, 1935
The tourism business is booming. More and more people are traveling to visit the jungle region. Tours are increasing and morale is rising. 3 new skippers arrived last week. I'm not so sure about 2 of them. More entrepreneurs are setting up shop in the areas surrounding the boathouse. They're selling everything from live snakes and tropical fruit to mosquito netting and canteens. It's amazing what can be found and purchased. It's fortunate indeed that our tours are becoming fashionable.
It is my sad responsibility to report that the Mekong Miss and the Magdalena Maiden were both lost while delivering supplies upriver. The Maggie sank after hitting rocks and the Mekong came loose and went over the falls taking Lance, our best Skip down with it. All we were able to recover was his hat. We have erected a monument across the river in Lance's memory. Auctioned goods from Lance's personal stash will be available for pickup next Tuesday.
In other news we need tubes for our radios. Blake said these ones won't last much longer so we'll have to trade for them I guess.
Oct 10, 1937
We had our first bigwig today, Dr. Henry "Indiana" Jones. He just walked up to the dock and started asking questions about the ancient ruins. We didn't even realize who he was until he removed his fedora. We had heard over the radio that he would be in these parts but never in our wildest dreams did we think we would actually see him. At any rate he hired a launch and a few of the crew and headed out to the ruins. No clue what he is looking for but I hope he finds it, think of the publicity for us!
Oct 29, 1937
Big News! Indy's done it! An ancient temple has been unearthed in the hills above the ruins of the sunken city. Adventureland hasn't seen this much activity in years. The numbers are amazing, not just tourists but droves of explorers and archaeologists have also flooded into our little outpost. Indy actually credited us with part of his find. We knew there might be business but we never expected all this. Now thanks to Indy we aren't just limited to Adventureland, we're World Famous my friends… Dig away boys, more business for us!
Dexter our ticket office manager suggested giving free tours to get the passengers interested. That way if we give them a bang up job they will tell their friends and relatives and we can start charging the big bucks.
We still have not been able to get rid of that darn hornbill that's started roosting above the stairway. I told Willis not to feed it. We also set up a camp out in the bush and hope to start offering actual safaris sometime soon.
Professor Von Schlit's Journal
May 29, 1933 To the Jungle Cruise Trading Company,
I would once again like to extend my heartfelt thanks for your services as transport and guide during my latest safari. I do anticipate that the specimens and data which I have collected on this most recent excursion will prove to be the most substantial and beneficial information gathered in my field of study.
I have visited my personal physician, as suggested by your acting nurse, and it seems the diagnosis is not as acute as once thought. The painful rash and sudden fevers should vanish within 3 or 4 months.
As for my guide Jake, I would like to mention that he indeed as qualified and knowledgeable as the last 2 rugged individuals sent by your company to lead my team of scientists into the bush. His proficiency in navigation and his sense of humor was well appreciated by all. I do hope that if your search party finds him you will send him our best.
With this letter I have sent a number of rough sketches of some of the wildlife observed during our expedition along with some interesting behaviors noted for each.
Best of luck to you all, Prof. Herny von Schlit
We embarked today on our little adventure. It was somewhat un-nerving to wave one final goodbye to the last remnants of civilization. I will miss the comforts of this boathouse and doubt my hammock and mosquito net will compare to a cozy bed and a hot cup of tea. Oh well, the sacrifices we make for science. Today Jake, our guide, brought me an amazing specimen of butterfly. I was astounded by the sheer size of it. It was larger than my hand measuring in at just under 8in from one wingtip to the other. Just as I was about to claim this titan as the largest butterfly ever recorded a larger one flew right past the brim of my hat. As we rounded the bend in the river we spotted several more resting on a log on the banks. I have heard of these giants, Queen Alexandria Birdwing, Ornitoptera alexandrae, native to Papua New Guinea. They can actually grow up to 1ft in wingspan. Oddly no one has been able to accurately measure their weight because the little creatures won’t be still. I was a little curious as to why I was witnessing butterflies of this magnitude, I would have thought the birds would have had a feast long ago. Jake, thankfully, solved this mystery. It seems the Queens eat the nectar of a very rare and poisonous plant. So these titans are not only beautiful, they are also extremely toxic. I was so engrossed in the study of these odd butterflies I almost missed one of the most famous birds of the jungle. As the boat continued in the rainforest we began to hear the all too familiar cries Ramphastos swainsonii, the toucan. These birds are extremely colorful, and annoyingly loud. Their sizes vary, most males weigh in at about 19oz, and by far the most prominent feature is their lobsterclaw shaped beak. Not much is known about this strange twist in evolution, the largest beak we measured was nearly 8in. Some have suggested the beak serves as a mark of recognition, making the bird stand out among a crowd of eligible suitors vying for a mate during courtship displays.
We lost nearly 3 days due to bad weather, high water. At night we were forced to camp along the riverbank and this particular night we sought shelter in the ancient sunken city. I know Dr Jones has been inquiring about the ruins recently so I spent a few precious moments transcribing the symbols I found on the columns into my journal. Nothing made sense to me but I know to a trained eye these rubbings will prove invaluable. Usually we boil the camp water in the river at night. Last night was extremely dry. I awoke from my tent to find the pot empty and thought nothing of refilling it myself. That choice nearly cost me my life. As I bent down to rinse out the pot, the water in front of me exploded. Suddenly I found myself trying to wrench the pot from the jaws of a crocodile. I think the croc had actually planned on ambushing me but the pot had foiled his plan. At any rate one of the porters was able to scare it off with a couple of well-aimed rounds. It disappeared quickly, but not before I got a good look at it. Judging by the coloring and size I would say it was an estuarine crocodile, Crocodylus Porosus, this one was only 15ft or so but I have heard tales of ones 17ft and longer. I know they can range from 2000-3000lbs and trust me they are extremely dangerous. If you plan on taking tours through this part of the river be sure to warn those darn tourists to keep their hands in.
I spent a couple more days exploring the various ruins. I warned everyone not to venture near the water alone, day or night. That comment was met with jeers and laughter, mainly at my own expense. Jake left this morning with several porters on an apparent fishing trip. He returned a few hours later empty handed, crocs kept devouring the fish the moment he hooked them. Jake found what he believes is the croc's lair. While sitting on a rock he noticed that all the crocs seem to dive and surface near the same bend in the river. He took me along the path back to the rock and showed me this strange site. All the crocs were out sunning themselves on the beach, then heading out for a swim in the river. I've heard they can hold their breath for an hour or so but some didn't surface even then. Jake believes there is an underwater cave somewhere nearby that these monsters have made into their home. Ahh home, I miss it already and we have only been gone a week. With that in mind we hiked up the trail back to camp. I tend to look up, Jake always looks down, good thing too. He barely saw it in time, the unmistakable print, soft pads and sharp claws. "Duck", he yelled, and not a minute too soon. I heard the brush crashing as the Bengal Tiger sprang up from its hiding place along the trail. I screamed and Jake shot off a couple of rounds, it was over before it even started. We had a couple of scrapes and bruises but my pack suffered the worst. The tiger had slashed through the pack with one swipe of its mighty paws. The beast took what was left of my rations. I have heard tales of these cats, Panthera tigris, they can walk without anyone hearing them, 500lbs of muscle that can soar nearly 20ft through the air. Their stripes are as distinct as the animals themselves.No two tigers have the exact same pattern. They are the ultimate hunter, stalking their prey with the upmost patience and not limited to hunting only in the day or just at night.Now that I've seen one I'm more then ready to move on.
We couldn't move on. The propeller on the boat was entangled in vines and we’ve had to spend another night in this wretched city. Well, more symbols for Dr. Jones I guess. The porters skillfully used some bamboo poles while Jake carefully handled tile throttle. By nightfall the boat was free. At daybreak we loaded the boat. I was almost completely in the boat when one of the porters screamed. He had lifted the last box only to be struck down by a king cobra, which had been lying in the leaves beneath it. Jake acted quickly and used a stick to first distract then pin the snake. Holding it just behind the head and carefully stretching it out we catalogued our find. What a catch, at least 15ft long and well over 20lbs. These snakes are the largest poisonous snakes ever encountered. Their venom is not the most toxic, but the amount they inject can down an elephant in minutes. Doc administered the anti-venom to the poor porter. He will be in a great deal of pain for quite a while.
Throughout the ruins -we encountered amazing spider webs, but no spiders. I assumed that between the crocs and the cobras whatever had made the webs had long ago been devoured. I was wrong. As our boat passed the final column of the city one of the porters yelled for a torch. At first I only saw a web, then I heard the faint tapping on the canvas roof of the boat. In a matter of moments several large spiders appeared, dropping silently down from the rooftop above. Their size gave them away. Goliath Spiders, averaging an astounding 11 in leg span. They aren't venomous relying on strength rather than bite to subdue their quarry. These giants will eat anything from insects to birds to rodents. The torch proved more then sufficient enough to scare them back and the crocs were more than happy to finish off those fleeing nasties.
After we passed beneath the final arch I realized that webs throughout the city were the work of a colony of spiders. They had once dominated this city, but were forced to retreat to this single arch for protection. I was about to ask Jake about the colony when he promptly spun me around to see another amazing sight. The river had widened into a large shallow pool and all along the edge stood Asian Elephants of varying sizes and ages. I knew Asian elephants traveled in herds usually lead by a dominant female. It seemed we had found their resting spot, a shallow pool, where they could tend to their young. It was only a guess, but I would estimate the largest of them at 6 tons and probably 10ft at the shoulder. We took great care not to disturb these gentle giants, or their playful offspring. Amazing little tikes, extremely playful, those little ones are quite the marksman, capable of hitting another calf or an unsuspecting porter. Jake barely avoided soaking from one of the young pranksters, calmly stepping out of the way just in time. Sadly he wasn't spry enough to avoid the big one that surfaced behind him! We decided to camp in the boat that night so as not to disturb the elephants.
Extremely boring day with nothing new to report. The forest has become even more dense, trees on top of trees, sprawling right up to the river's water. The river, choked by the dense vegetation, had no choice but to narrow into a fast moving stream. As we passed branch after branch I noticed odd marks on some of the trees. One of the porters commented "Nyani". Jake translated, it meant baboon in Swahili. Later that day I finally spotted some. It was a family of baboons, olive in color. The largest male was about 30in at the shoulder and possibly 60lbs or so. I was warned that they can be extremely dangerous. They prefer to attack in large numbers. On a lighter nothing will be able to sneak up on us, baboons are also very good at announcing the advance of any predator. Sadly we were forced to camp in the boat yet again, it's not safe out there with the baboons.
Later that night I was awakened by a strange sound down by the river. At first I thought it was one of the porters gathering water but when I whispered it turned around. I have never been so scared in my life. It was a Gorilla, easily 350lbs and well over 6ft tall. It's no wonder the ancient explorers of Carthage named it Gorilla, which in their tongue means "hairy man", that is exactly what it looked like in the moonlight. When it turned around to leave I noticed the silver on its back. Grayed hair from years spent in the wild. There was no doubt that this was the dominant male. He had warned me not to come any closer. In the morning we found the nests the gorillas had slept in the night before. The nests were barely 15yds from our camp, 15yrds and no one knew they were there except me. I had hoped to see them again. I have heard tales of their little ones actually walking at 4 months. According to some, one gorilla is easily stronger than four grown men. These titans are rather curious creatures, I just wish I could have seen them again, what a find, what a chance ... well at least I had a chance to say hello.
Should have been back by now. Oh well, Jake just radioed the boathouse and made sure they didn't send out a search party. Just when we thought the river couldn't possibly get any narrower, it did, the river became little more than a channel with an extremely shallow .bed, just barely enough water to hold a boat. The porters brought out the bamboo poles and Jake warned us not to get too close to the riverbanks, sandbars, we didn't want to run aground. I asked him about the tracks and large holes in the vegetation, he was about to respond when an African Elephant crashed through the brush trumpeting loudly. It was answered instantly by another trumpet as a second elephant appeared on the other side of the river. "Tembo" screamed one of the porters, elephant in Swahili. Best guess, 13ft at the shoulders, easily 6 ½ or 7 tons. They are the largest mammals on land. They differ slightly from their Asian cousins. Their back slopes up, instead of down, their ears are larger, actually they are larger, and their trunk has two "fingers" instead of one. Local villages have reported rogue elephants destroying their crops, these two might be the culprits.
We finally reached the African Veldt. Where do I begin, so much wildlife to be found here. The first animals I noticed were the zebras. Magnificent is the only word to describe seeing those beautiful creatures. Almost anyone can tell you what a zebra looks like, small horse, short stiff hair, with black and white stripes. The natives call them "Punda Milia" and they weigh in at about 500lbs constantly moving in search of more grass. Other animals gather around them to take advantage of the zebra's sensitive hearing and amazing sense of smell. If a lion is able to evade a zebra's senses, then the zebra will disappear in a blinding flash of speed. It confuses the lion by masking itself within the colors of the heard. Actually no one really knows why a zebra is striped, I say camouflage but others believe the coloring helps to it cool off in the heat of the day.
All this talk of speed brings me to the next wonder of nature, the Giraffe. African traders named these giants long ago. Giraffe is Arabic; loosely translated it means "Fast". The natives refer to them as “Twiga". Everyone comments on the animal's height, 15 to 18ft tall making it the tallest animal on earth, but what is truly amazing is their stride when they run. Most creatures have a hard enough time just keeping pace when they walk. The giraffe also has the largest eyes of any animal, excellent vision; combined with their height it makes them the perfect look out for lions. While zebras will run from lions, giraffes have another weapon. If a lion attacks a calf then the mother giraffe will stand over it to protect it. One kick from a giraffe is more than enough to knock out, or possibly even kill a lion. The only two times a giraffe is vulnerable to attack is when it sleeps and when it drinks. It sleeps about 20 minutes a day and it only drinks when several others are keeping watch. There are cave paintings with creatures resembling Giraffes on them, distant relative no doubt.
What a sight this morning, the Nyumbu Ya Montu, a mile long herd of Gnus traveling across the open range with dust stretching across the horizon as far as the eye could see. The Gnu are small in comparison to other animals, but still large next to one of us. One of the team guessed they were around 56in at the shoulder probably 500lbs or more. We wanted to venture closer but we were forced to keep our distance. To the best of our knowledge Gnu only travel in large herds, protection in numbers, and when frightened they take flight in a colossal stampede capable of flattening anything in its path. They are extremely careful, grazing near other species of animals and take full advantage of the other's senses as well as their own to protect the herd.
By far the most amazing experience I have had on this safari to date happened today. As the team was studying the various fauna of the plains we happened upon a curious herd. It was a mix of Grant's and Thompson's gazelle. Both species are well known for their grace and speed but none of us realized just how fast they really are. Out of nowhere a lioness sprang from the tall grasses and charged the herd. Chaos ensued as every animal sprinted in a different direction. Somehow the lioness managed to keep her sights on one particular gazelle and the chase was on. Immediately Jake removed his hat and wagers started to appear from every porter's pocket. I'm not one for gambling so I climbed up on to a tree branch in order to call out the outcome. Several times the lioness came within inches of cutting down the gazelle, every time it was thwarted by a sharp turn and a sudden change of direction. The lioness eventually grew tired and the gazelle, sensing this I imagine, turned heel in a blazing display of speed leaving the lioness choking on dust. Several words were exchanged when I called out the winner of that little race, not sure who won the wager but the lioness was definitely outclassed. Jake suggested that we head back to camp, there was an angry lioness on the prowl, and she was still hungry.
Well it seems that lioness found her prey. This morning I noticed the "tumbusi ngusha", vultures ... wow the porter's Swahili is rubbing off on me, circling on the warm thermals high above. When those demons take flight it can mean only one thing. Even though Jake protested, I still assembled the team and trekked out to follow the birds. The closer we drew, the louder the cacophony, and the stronger the smell. At first all I could see was a moving sea of black and red as the vultures crowded around their meal. Soon I was able to distinguish individual birds. While there are many different types of vultures these ones lacked any sort of plumage on their neck or head. Large birds, 3ft tall, easily an 8ft wingspan and well over 15lbs, would make a nice meal except their meat is probably tainted by their diet. We tried to shoo away those demons, swinging sticks and throwing rocks at them that is of course, until they decided to turn on us. The black cloud moved and all I remember is beaks and claws snipping at me. Then someone fired a shot and all the birds took to the air. One of our porters kept a feather, for good luck I imagine; the poor man split his pants in the fray.
The lion's kill was a zebra, not sure of anything more since the carcass was nearly devoured. In fact tJ.'1e only reason I was able to identify it as zebra is from a flap of skin I found laying on the ground. One of our porters pointed to the edge of the clearing and whispered something to Jake. While the shot may have terrified the vultures, it actually attracted the attention of something else. It brought out the curious nature in one of Africa's least understood predators, hyenas. Most believe the hyena is a dumb animal that laughs out of stupidity; it's actually quite the opposite. Their laughs, grunts, howls, and barks are a complex means of communication and their vocabulary is extensive. I have observed them as they hunt, each animal is able to not only navigate on their own, but also coordinate an attack because of their precise communications. They may not be as large as a lion, maybe 90lbs or so probably 3ft tall, but they are surely just as dangerous if not more so. Fisi, that's the native name, and it is uttered with the greatest respect for those predators. With other animals you find a carcass, with hyenas you find nothing; they eat everything, even the bones. As I gazed out to the edge of the clearing I noticed several hyena starting to head in our direction. Jake then lead us away from the carcass, walking slowly at first, then faster, then suddenly he stopped. I knew that look, I didn't even have to tum around I could already hear it. The hyenas yelped in anger and fear as several lions encircled the carcass roaring at the hyenas, warning them to stand back. I had wanted to get closer to a lion and chance had brought me closer then most individuals live to tell about.
The lion is considered the king of the jungle, but the credit is actually due to the female, not the male. Most male lions are lazy, barely moving except to eat. The females are the ones that not only care for the young, but also hunt. This pack had probably been the one that devoured the zebra, too many hyenas may have forced them back, too many vultures likewise forced back the hyena. Our shot caused a chain reaction and now the lions were back on top. As scared as I was I couldn't get over how beautiful they were. Gold hairs shimmering in the sunlight, probably 4ft at the shoulder and the smallest was easily 300lbs. We would have stayed longer except several cubs had appeared, a lion is most dangerous when protecting their young, or guarding a meal, and in this case it was both. Time to head back to camp.
I never thought our expedition would be in the field this long. The abundant life on the African Veldt has compelled me to stay a week longer then I had originally planned. Already we had captured and catalogued countless new species. Today with the aid of Jake I was able to track the elusive Black Rhino "Faru" as the natives say. Its tracks were relatively easy to follow and Jake was more than willing to guide me whenever I went astray. Soon we found ourselves on the edge of a clearing, directly behind a group of rhino that were grazing on the long grasses. My plan was to get as close as possible, but with the first step I snapped a twig and alerted the entire group of our presence. "Run” I screamed as the closest bowed his head readying for a charge. Jake had already managed to climb into the limbs of a nearby tree and as I ran he grabbed my collar and hoisted me up just in time. With a terrifying bellow the 2 ton brute crashed through the brush and charged horn first into the tree. It was all I could do to hold on. Soon the Rhino had moved on to another tree, dealing a glancing blow to it's trunk as well. I started to speak and Jake held his finger to his lips. The Rhino was listening for us. Soon the Rhino grew bored and left. We climbed down and headed back to camp, I managed to pick up a piece of the Rhino's horn that had chipped off in the scuffle. From what little I can make of it, it appears to be composed of the same material as fingernails. Along the way back Jake explained everything I had witnessed. Rhinos are one of the largest creatures to walk the earth. They are nearly 5ft at the shoulder and weigh well over a ton when fully grown. They have extremely bad eyesight and this particular one had lost us in the trees, to make up for a lack of vision nature provided the rhino with extremely sensitive hearing. If I had so much as whispered the Rhino would have known our exact location.
With our African portion of the Safari finally completed it was time to move on. As the boat shoved off we bid farewell to the creatures we had encountered and the dangers we had faced. As our boat glided down the river there was a sudden lurch and everyone scrambled for a hold. The river had widened into a large dark pool and all giant dark shapes glided to and fro, several under our boat. "Kiboko" I found myself screaming as another Hippo surfaced and charged the boat. It came at us with mouth gaping, head swinging from side to side, grunting with every ounce of breath it had. There was little doubt, this was the dominant male protecting his territory. At 3 1/2 tons and well over 12ft long Hippos are kings of the river. Not even a croc will attack a full grown adult, in fact several crocs have met an early demise being attacked by adult hippos. Hippos are considered the most dangerous beast in ail of Africa, claiming more lives than most creatures combined. Highly territorial, extremely aggressive, large and dangerous. Because of our navigational error our boat was taking a beating, and it wouldn't hold much longer. Jake fired off two warning shots and we gave the boat every drop of gas we had. With a little skill and a lot of luck we made it through with only minor damage to the hull and several boxes lost, small price to pay considering.
While traveling along the river I noticed a strange coincidence. Every time something other than the boat touched the water, a pole for instance, the water around it immediately started to bubble. On more than one occasion I would pull the pole up only to find teeth marks all along it. On a lighter note the fishing couldn't have been better. I'm not sure what kind of fish they are, but they have a voracious appetite because they seemed to bite into whatever we used for bait. Sadly they aren't great for eating, rather bony, but catching them is fun. The only trouble is their rather sharp teeth, they cut several lines and eventually Jake had to use a bit of steel wire as a lead. When we reached the native village the mystery was solved. "Caju" the native replied as he pointed to the fish "good catch, bad eating". Evidently I had just met the Amazon's most famous fish, the piranha. During the rainy season food is plentiful for these fish, it is only during the dry season that you must be careful. In the dry season the fish get trapped: If they swim into one of the smaller tributaries then they are cut off from the river for the rest of the season. While the river itself continues to hold water, the lesser tributaries can dry up under the hot equatorial sun. The only way the Piranha can survive in a tributary is by taking shelter in one of the deeper pools and waiting out the season. It's these pools, not the river, that are easily 8in wide. I looked to the native as if to ask and he simply pointed to the river and a danger to everyone. The fish collect into ever larger schools, when the food supply runs out they tum on themselves, or anything unfortunate enough to wade into the water. To demonstrate the lethality of these fish our native friend led us to a nearby pool. As we watched he removed several large chunks of meat from his pouch and with a quick flick threw them into the pool. Immediately bubbles surfaced all around the meat, the water churned with excitement and in a matter of moments the only things left was bones. As I reached out to grab a bone for a souvenir I was nipped on the forearm by one of the little demons. A quite reminder of just how dangerous nature can be.
The entire way back I kept my eyes on the trail. Dirt path, few tracks, suddenly my eye was caught by one long line cutting right across the path. It was an odd wavy pattern, he said "Anaconda". That's when I saw it. It was sunning itself on a rock near the water's edge. It was coiled up half in the water and half out, easily 20-25ft long. I never knew snakes could get that big. Jake asked the natives back at the village a couple of quick questions. One of the natives said the snakes can reach 30ft, another said that they can weigh close to 600Ibs. Still another actually witnessed one of the snakes take down an adult water buffalo, he managed to free the animal by slashing at the snake with his knife. Had he not been there that animal would not have stood a chance. Anacondas may not be the longest snakes on Earth, but they certainly are the heaviest. These massive reptiles aren't venomous but they are extremely dangerous. Their entire body is designed to wrap around their prey and then crush it, suffocating their prey by literally squeezing the life out of it. Once in its grip there is little hope of ever being released. The natives have a great deal of respect for the snakes and give them as much distance as possible.
This is what will hopefully be my final journal entry. We leave the native village with a heavy heart. The natives were extremely helpful in helping us gather a few more specimens to add to the collection. A.s I passed by the paddock on the way to the river I noticed the water buffalo the native had mentioned. It was quite large, 2000lbs or so, with a nasty bite mark on the side of its right shoulder. As I drew closer I could see individual scars, rubbings really, of where the snake had wrapped around it in a death coil. I leave this village with a great deal of respect for its jungle, and I leave finish this Safari with a healthy respect for all of Mother Nature’s inhabitants.
Upon my return I was informed of a rather large bird that had nested in the upper reaches of the boathouse. It's a Hornbill, no clue why it chose us as its new roommates. It's loud, obnoxious, and constantly annoying... gee it'll fit right in. I know the boathouse has plenty of geckos, snakes, spiders and rats... this Hornbill might be a blessing in disguise.