Crocodiles in Katavi - photo by Firelight Safaris
During an advisory visit in 1947 to Chunya, the centre of the Lupa goldfield, I fancied a trip to nearby Lake Rukwa to stay at the Lake Rukwa Hotel. This is not a rift lake and it is very shallow, but full of tilapia fish and of crocodiles which feed on them. The hotel was very remote and had been built by a man who was fond of kippers. He developed a method of smoking the lake fish into a fair imitation of a proper kipper. To anyone who hadn’t had a Manx kipper for a year or two I must say they were very palatable. The hotel was quite comfortable if one didn’t mind a bath in what looked like tomato soup, as the lake was very muddy. The hotel water was taken from the lake in debbes (4-gallon petrol tins) and boiled as needed.
Lake Rukwa Hotel was looked after by a Polish housekeeper who had recently been in a refugee camp in Northern Rhodesia. She was sitting knitting on the verandah overlooking the lake when there was a scream from the jetty projecting into the lake. One of the hotel servants had gone down to fill his debbe with water and had been seized by the leg by a large crocodile.
Without further ado the housekeeper ran along the jetty and belaboured the beast with her knitting needles. Presumably the croc was startled by this effrontery and promptly let the man go. He was carried bak to the hotel where a very nasty gash on his leg was bandaged. He recovered fully; the lady was awarded the British Empire medal for her bravery.
Note by Flo:
This story was written by my father, known as Babu – he spent the years between 1944 and 1962 in Tanganyika working for the Geological Survey, which was based in Dodoma. He travelled to many obscure destinations all over the country during that time, and later wrote a book of short (but tall) stories entitled “Memoirs of a WhenWe”