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Ever wonder why this has never been done before...?

Venomous snakes, aggressive hippopotami, six metre long crocodiles, lethal scorpions and bands of unfriendly locals pose only a few of the hazards that lie in wait along the Nile corridor. These and other equally frightening spectres will confront the Colours of the Nile expedition at every bend and turn.

In over 9,000 years of civilization along the banks of the River Nile no expedition has ever been able to overcome the multitude of dangers and follow her entire path from the source of the Blue Nile at Lake Tana to Rosetta on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea. Many have tried. All have failed.

"It proved to be a venture not to be lightly undertaken, and I understood why the secrets of the Nile Valley remained so long unrevealed" - Major Robert E. Cheesman, British Consul for Northwest Ethiopia 1924-1934

Disease, sickness, fatigue and dehydration compound all of the animal hazards to make this truly a perilous voyage of courage and discovery. Following are some of the hazards that the team will have to confront.

Along the route, the expedition will be vulnerable to more than 10 varieties of venomous snakes. Some of the most dreaded snakes on the globe measuring up to 3.7 metres (12 feet) in length will be slithering threateningly near the river. Species such as the Black Mamba, Saw-scaled Viper and the majestic Egyptian Cobra have been held accountible for many deaths in the locality.

In great abundance along the path of the river, hippos have long been considered by many experts, explorers and Africans as the most dangerous animal in Africa (with the exception of the mosquito). Statistically hippos are responsible for killing more people than lions. With their odious combination of extreme aggression, unpredictability and their fearlessness with people, these creatures pose a formidable hazard. They are synonymous with unprovoked offensives on boats and the chomping of the crew with their ratchet-like teeth and incisors. Hippos can weigh up to 3200kg (7040lb) and although usually sluggish on land, can reach speeds of up to 30km (18 miles) per hour (by comparison, Olympic sprinters run around 40km/h).

Africa’s most common carnivore, hyena, hunt in both packs and alone. Sporting exceedingly powerful jaws, this meat-eater can be very bold when hungry and has been known to attack people as they sleep in their huts. When a hyena attacks a human, it usually begins by mauling the face first.

Lions will seldom attack people unless they are provoked or starving. However, once a lion has tasted carrion and has realised what easy prey humans can be, they can become dependant on human flesh for survival. This king of the jungle can move extremely fast and is generally bolder at night, known on occasion to invade unsuspecting camps.

The Nile crocodile is one of only two species in the world regularly known to attack people and view them as prey. Just 30 years ago this species of reptile almost faced extinction, now there is an estimated 250,000 - 500,000 of these predators lurking along the river. They can grow up to 6 metres (20 feet) long and live in large ‘communities’ of several dozen crocodiles, uniting if necessary to take down a much larger animal. Interestingly, on land the Nile Crocodile has been known to gallop at speeds of about 50 kilometres (30 miles) an hour.

Many varieties of scorpions live in the deserts and scrublands of Northern Africa. The sting from most scorpions is painful, yet not deadly. However, the venom from species such as the Yellow Fattail Scorpion is strong enough to kill a full-grown man in less than two hours if not treated with Antivenin.

Other Mammals
The route is rife with a number of other dangerous animals such as baboons, leopards and buffaloes, which can be both bold and aggressive towards humans.

Roaring Rapids
With the level of the Blue Nile riding near its highest and fastest during the descent from the Ethiopian Highlands, there will be a number of dangerous rapids, undercut rocks and bad hydraulics to navigate. These obstacles will pose serious dangers making the expedition anything but smooth sailing in the upper reaches of the river.

Heat Stroke and Dehydration
The lack of potable water and excessive heat along the route poses serious dangers in terms of extreme fluid loss and depleted electrolytes. Inability to properly contend with these risks could lead to “hyperthermia”, the loss of the body's ability to cool itself and subsequent overheating, or hyponatremia the loss of bodily salts. Either of these conditions can be fatal if not treated appropriately. The early stages of these conditions can cause minor distress such as cramps, headaches and vomiting with later more serious symptoms presenting themselves as delirium, unconsciousness and sudden death.

Malaria and Other Tropical Diseases
Malaria, caused by a microscopic blood-borne parasite transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito, infects about 500 million people annually. Of those infected, approximately 2 million people die of the disease every year, ranking malaria as one of the leading causes of death in some parts of the world. The heat and moisture around the River Nile creates the perfect habitat for mosquitoes to flourish. Other menacing diseases rife in the area include leprosy, bilharziasis, fever and dysentery. More recently, the West Nile virus, a blood-borne disease also carried by mosquitoes has spread throughout all parts of Africa.

The Locals
In addition to the abundance of natural and animal hazards, humans present a considerable risk to the expedition.  This is due to the mounting distrust of westerners bought about by recent tension in the area.

A combination of extensive planning and preparations, local assistance and good fortune will ensure that potential perils will be minimized. Despite countless hours of careful planning and prevention it will be impossible to completely eliminate the multitude of risks along the river. We can only hope that fortune does indeed favour the brave. Carpe diem!


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