the great spider hunt

This afternoon I was excited and eager to finally get out into the bush for a proper walk. In the Mara you are technically not allowed to leave the vehicle, so naturally bush walking is frowned upon. Outside of the Mara all bets are off. As long as you have a Kenyan Wildlife Service Ranger with you – i.e. a man with a shotgun – you are free to roam as far as your good sense will take you. I went out with a ranger, a Masai warrior with a spear, a tracker, and another couple who were staying at the lodge. Rather early on we chanced upon some small holes in the ground that appeared perfectly drilled and lined with silk. This I discovered was the lair of the baboon spider, an African sub-family of the tarantula. It quite quickly became – let me add – a minor obsession. We went from hole to hole to hole attempting to lure Harpactirinae out of her secret spot in vain. It was impossible to walk more than a few feet without seeing another hole here, another hole there: all tempting, all abandoned. After close to a dozen false starts our tracker discovered an arachnid eager to indulge this odd quarry of reluctant spider hunters. A few blades of grass and a dollop of saliva were all it took to get her out. Apparently the nocturnal baboon spider lies in wait all day, guarding its sac of eggs which lie at the bottom. The promise of food, however – even in daylight – is too good for the hungry spider to pass up.

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