I remember going on safari with my dad in the early 1960s to Baringo where he checked on the new fish-processing plant by the Roberts’ campsite. At night with lights shining, the muddy brown water looked like a parking lot with all the reflected crocodile’s eyes as hundreds of the reptiles waited for the effluent from the fish plant.
At night a buzzing cloud of lake flies – a little gnat like a mosquito – surrounded the pressure lamp. Every few minutes one of the servants would clear away the accumulated heap of dead bodies from under the lamp!
I fished there in the mornings. It took just a few moments to catch the first one – usually a big catfish or a tilapia. And then the hook wouldn’t even touch the water when I threw it back out. The fish would leap up for it. I caught so many I had to stop before I got tired or bored!
The crocs scared me, but they stayed out in the water. I also feared getting my toes bitten off by a catfish, like I’d heard had happened to one of the Roberts boys. Some small fish did nibble at my toes!
We filled a big used wicker picnic box with the fish I caught and carried them back to Nairobi. We kept a few and my dad gave the rest to the staff. The fish tasted delicious. A few days later, we asked the staff how they liked the fish.
“Oh!” they said, “we still have them as they aren’t ready yet.” Apparently they liked their fish tender and smelling strongly.
On another safari I went with my dad to Archer’s Post to inspect one of his camel abattoirs. Even though the large slaughterhouse was pretty clean, I felt it was gross with death everywhere. They brought the camels in from the large corral and the ‘executioner’ would hold this stun gun – a kind of pistol that fired blanks that drove a small metal rod a half-inch into the front of the skull – against the camel’s head. There would be a report and the camel would fall. The men quickly skinned the camel and cut it into sections. There were rows of metal tables around the floor that sloped slightly down to a drain where all the blood and stomach contents flowed down into a near-vertical tube and into the Ewaso Ngiro river…where a large number of crocodiles had gathered for the feast.
As I walked around looking at everything, I slipped on the slimy sloping edge of the drain! Wsheeeeeew – I scooted along the downhill drain sending up a spray of blood and guts and small bits and pieces of camel, heading for the outlet pipe at a terrific rate. I could see the crocodiles with open jaws waiting to gulp me down as a nice titbit!
As I skidded towards the drain tube, a strong black arm shot out from nowhere at the last instant and grabbed me by the elbow and stopped me! A worker hauled me out, dripping with gore but so very happy to still be alive! The workers gathered round to inspect me. They washed me and I put on some spare clothes from my dad’s car. After that, they fitted a big grill over the outlet pipe so no one would fall into the crocodiles’ dinner plate!
Oscar Mann, Nairobi