The long and dusty road through Southern Swaziland traveled straight past acacias, sicklebush, and a sign with crocodiles and cobras carved into it, which showed we were going in the right direction. About 2 miles further, the dust cloud overtook our vehicle as we turned onto the dirt path that would take us to our destination, the Swaziland Reptile Park. We had read about the park a week earlier while having lunch in a small diner on the border of South Africa and Swaziland. The park’s advertisement had boasted of having one of the greatest snake collections in all of Southern Africa, which we were a little skeptical about, but the pictures looked really interesting, so we decided to make small detour on our way to KwaZulu Natal Coast of South Africa.
As we continued down the dirt path, we arrived at the main building, where you could also arrange to stay at the huts within the boma (enclosed area to keep one safe from predators). We first unloaded our gear into the huts, then made our way past the crocodiles in the pond and over to the serpentarium.
Once at the serpentarium, we talked to the owners about taking photos of the different snake species for our website. They agreed and after taking us on a tour of the facility, allowed us to choose whichever species we wanted to photograph.
The first snake we chose was the Gaboon viper, an incredibly fast striker and equipped with the largest fangs of any venomous snake (nearly 2 inches in length). However, Gaboon vipers are also very beautiful with their mottled pattern that helps them to blend into the forest floor.
Next, they brought out the Snouted Cobra. This snake has an impressive hood, that when raised up, makes a great photo. The cobra was much more mobile than the Gaboon viper, as is typical with cobras and all other elapids, but Zach was able to get some great photos nonetheless.
The owners were great and continued bringing snakes out for us to handle and photograph. Other species included the tiger snake (not Australian species), file snake, Rock pythons, several other cobra species, and a monitor lizard. By then, the sun was setting and working with the snakes, especially the venomous species, was becoming more difficult. We thanked the owners who had been great in allowing us to learn more about Africa’s reptiles and finally made our way back to our huts within the boma. Along the way we spotlighted to see the crocodiles eyes reflect back to us. Finally making it to camp, we fell asleep to the sounds of the bush and looked forward to another day of searching for snakes and other wildlife under the African sun.