On a few occasions over the last nine months, I’ve driven through a safari park, thrilled by the lions, elephants and gazelles. Outside those big zoos, it’s been at least as much fun noticing Africa’s less heralded fauna. They tend to come much closer. So far I haven’t experienced the proverbial cobra in the sleeping bag, but I have felt big hairy spiders run down my leg in the middle of the night. Let me tell you, it’s at least as much of a kick as spotting a lion asleep at fifty yards. Lizards sun in the gardens and frogs hop away from car tires. Millipedes frighten me and the other day a brilliant orange moth, five inches across, rested on an ATM screen.
Ambling over the coral reefs at low tide, loose limbed starfish actually walked through the shallow water and sea cucumbers recoiled to the touch. By moonlight thousands of small white crabs commandeered the beach, rearranging themselves like chessmen whenever people approached.
The main hazard in the water are the constellations of sea urchins peeking out from beneath every coral ledge. Every safari should include a hunt so, thinking uni, I brought a few inside and chopped them open, their quills still twiddling. The goop you’re supposed to eat is difficult to remove from the goop you’re not. I lacked the patience to separate enough of it for a pasta dish. Urchin, perhaps, is only a delicacy when someone else prepares it for you.