Snakes
Kruger Park Reptiles

© Kruger Park snakes © Graham Cooke
There are 54 species of snakes found in Kruger Park, only nine of which are deadly poisonous. Although the black mamba is often portrayed as the most dangerous snake in Africa, 90% of bites to humans are actually by the Mozambique spitting cobra and the puff adder.The largest African snake - the python - is fairly common, but difficult to see. It can grow up to five metres in length and kills its prey by wrapping its body around the victim and crushing it. It's very rare to come across snakes in Kruger, even during the guided wilderness walks.

Snakes tend to shy away from humans and only attack if they're caught by surprise. Nonetheless, one should be cautious at camps and lookout points. If you come across a snake in a camp, please alert the camp staff immediately.

The Killer Snakes of Kruger


African Rock PythonAfrican Rock Python (Python sebae)

Characteristics

Largest snake in Africa - up to 5m long; crushes its prey to death; generally nocturnal but seen during the day

Prey

Dassies, hares, cane rats, birds; has been known to take impala and young antelope and warthogs

Habitat

Mixed woodlands near water; very good tree climbers

Egyptian CobraEgyptian Cobra (Naja haje)

Characteristics

Largest cobra, approx 1,5m long; when disturbed it rears up and displays a broad hood; very fast moving striker with toxic venom

Prey

Small mammals, birds and their eggs, frogs

Habitat

Mixed woodlands near water

 

 

Black MambaBlack Mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis)

Characteristics

One of the most poisonous snakes in Africa; about 2m long; very fast strikers and can slither at speeds of up to 15km/h

Prey

Birds, rodents, dassies and other small animals

Habitat

Dry lowveld bush; lives in abandoned termite hills, animal holes and among rocks; loves basking in the sun

Puff AdderPuff Adder (Bitis arietans)

Characteristics

Responsible for more human bites than all other African snakes combined - most attacks are because it is trodden on; front fangs make venom delivery extremely effective; sluggish, fat snake about 1,5m long

Prey

Rodents, birds, other snakes; a puff adder has once been recorded killing a tortoise

Habitat

Very fond of lying in the sun; found in all Kruger habitats - one of the most widely distributed snakes in Africa

 

Mozambique Spitting CobraMozambique Spitting Cobra (Naja mossambica peters)

Characteristics

One of the most poisonous snakes in Africa; rears up two-thirds of its body length when disturbed, displays hood and spits venom with amazing accuracy (they can spit venom into the eyes of an aggressor three metres away);average length approximately 1m

Prey

Birds' eggs, small mammals and reptiles

Habitat

Mixed savanna woodland; favours hollow trees and abandoned burrows near water

Twig SnakeTwig Snake (Thelotornis capensis)

Characteristics

Slender, fast-moving tree snake about 1,3m long; can stay motionless for long periods of time; well camouflaged and very poisonous

Prey

Birds and their nestlings and eggs

Habitat

Mixed woodland near water

BoomslangBoomslang (Dispholidus typus)

Characteristics

Highly venomous, greenish tree snake, about 1,5m long

Prey

Birds' eggs, small mammals and reptiles

Habitat

Thick woodlands near water

Other notable reptiles in Kruger are two species of monitor lizards (leguaans), the water and the rock monitors. The water leguaan can be up to two metres long and is found at permanent water sources in Kruger. It feeds mainly on fish, crabs, mussels, small animals and birds.

Rock monitors can be found quite far from water in rocky outcrops and crevices. They grow up to 1,5m and feed on small mammals, birds, eggs, other reptiles and insects.

Illustration: Chris Snaddon

Africa Snake Guide

African Rock Python

The African Rock Python is Africa's largest snake. There is a large spearhead mark on the crown of the head; dark and light bands radiating from eye to...more

Black Mamba

A large, streamlined snake with a narrow, coffin-shaped head and smooth scales. The back is uniform gunmetal to olive-brown, but never really black...more

Brown House Snake

Brown House Snake [Lamprophis capensis]. A large house snake with an obvious head and small body scales. It is uniform red-brown in colour. Large, old...more

Cape Wolf Snake

The Cape Wolf Snake is a small snake that grows larger in the southern part of its range. It has a flattened head. Colouration is usually uniform dark...more

Egyptian Cobra

Egyptian Cobras may be a uniform light brown, black, or a light yellowish brown colour. The Egyptian Cobra is found throughout North Africa and south of...more

Olive Grass Snake

The Olive Grass Snake is a large, robust snake with a non-flattened snout and a long tail. The back is olive-brown (paler towards the tail), sometimes...more

Puff Adder

Puff Adder [Bitis arietans]. This thick, heavily built snake has a large, flattened, triangular head and large nostrils which point vertically upwards...more

Red Lipped Snake

The Red Lipped Snake is a small snake with a broad, obvious head and a short tail. The scales are in 19 rows at midbody and are dull; the head is...more

Rhombic Egg Eater

The Rhombic Egg-Eater is a slender, solid snake with a small, rounded head. The tail is short; males have shorter tails. The back is slate-grey, light...more

Spotted Bush Snake

Spotted Bush Snake [Philothamnus semivariegatus]. A very slender snake with a flat, distinct head and a long tail. The body is bright green to olive...more

Vine Snake

Southern Vine Snake, Twig Snake, Bird Snake [Thelotornis capensis capensis]. This extremely thin snake has a lance-shaped head and large eyes with keyhole-shaped pupils...more
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