The Beauty of Snakes

The Beauty of Snakes

The Beauty of Snakes

Love them or hate them, most of us are fascinated by snakes. They are incredible, albeit slightly creepy animals that are a key to our ecosystem.

Whether you want to see one on your safari or not is, partly, up to you. We do however encourage you to mention to your guide that it is something you would be interested if the opportunity arises. For a lot of our guests it is often a high point of their safari; the unexpected high point anyway.

Of the world’s 4700 snake species, Africa is home to just under 700. The largest is the Central African Python, coming in at a length of 6m and weighing over 100 Kg, while the smallest is the tiny thread snake (Leptotyphlops), less than 10cm long and weighing under 10g. Of course, not all of the 700 snakes are venomous.

Central African Python vs Black Thread Snake

What are the risks to you if you see one? Almost non-existent, snakes believe it or not are more afraid of humans than we are of them. Look where you’re going and listen to your guide, if you do see one stay calm, turn around and walk away. Don’t let a fear of snakes put you off an African Safari.

In celebration of our slithery friends, here our Africa’s Snake Big 5:

Read about venom types at the bottom of the article

African Rock Python

Is Africa’s largest snake and is non-venomous. It can catch large prey, including impala, and kills it by suffocation.

Southern African Python

Mozambique Spitting Cobra

Spits venom to ward off would be predators. Feeds on frogs, small mammals, birds and snakes.

Venom: Ctyotoxic

Mozambique Spitting Cobra


Largely tree-living. Hatchlings and juveniles are grey with massive eyes, adult males are usually green.

Venom: Haemotoxic


Black Mamba

Shy and elusive snake, not overtly aggressive. Highly venomous

Venom: Neurotoxic

Black Mamba

Puff Adder

Heavy-bodied snake that relies on camouflage. Ambush hunter that will coil up into a striking position to wait for prey.

Venom: Cytotoxic

Puff Adder

Types of Snake Venom

Neurotoxic venom affects the nervous system

Symptoms may include drowsiness, vomiting, increased sweating, blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech and difficulty in swallowing, speaking, breathing and weakness of other muscle groups. The respiratory muscles are gradually paralysed which leads to respiratory failure. Snakes with predominantly neurotoxic venom include the Black Mamba, Green Mamba, and all non-spitting cobras.

Cytotoxic venom affects the tissue and muscle cells

Symptoms may include immediate burning pain at the site of the bite followed by local swelling that could continue for several days. In severe cases the entire limb may swell. Local tissue necrosis is quite common and may result in the loss of a limb. Snakes with predominantly cytotoxic venom include the Puff Adder, Night Adders, Mozambique Spitting Cobra and Stiletto Snake.

Haemotoxic venom affects the clotting mechanism of the blood

There is usually little or no swelling and very little pain initially. The bite is followed by oozing of blood from the bite site after a few hours, headache, mental confusion, nausea, vomiting and increased sweating. After several hours there may be bleeding from small cuts, the mucous membranes of the mouth and nose, purple patches under the skin, and eventually severe internal bleeding which results in vomiting of blood and haemorrhage from the bowels. Kidney failure and brain haemorrhage may occur after a few days.

If you’re interested in finding out more about snakes, don’t hesitate to send us an email at Alternatively, make an enquiry and we’ll get back to you, or call us directly on +44 (0) 20 8089 3467.

Images and notes courtesy of

Toby Pheasant - Founder / Private Guide

17th July 2019
by Toby Pheasant

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