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Many of you know that I love snakes. Like, really love. You don't have to scroll through my Instagram feed for too long to realise that. They're just so fascinating and beautiful. The obsession started on my first trip to Africa - helped by the fact I was working on a wildlife documentary that focused heavily on venomous snakes - so its apt that this next story also took place in Africa, several years later.
Firstly you need to know something: I'm actually pretty rubbish at finding snakes myself. Lack of experience, lack of luck, whatever it is; most of my snake sightings have been found by guides or friends I'm with. Finding a snake for myself is as much a matter of pride as it is part of my job.
At the start of this year I was back in South Africa for a family trip, giving my parents their first taste of Africa. On our roadtrip down the Garden Route we stopped overnight at an olive farm just outside Oudtshoorn and - me being me - I immediately started roaming the grounds looking for birds.
"What birds did you see?" I hear none of you ask. Well I ticked off several new species that afternoon, including:
As I walked between the long rows of olive trees, my left ear filled with the noise of rustling leaves. What luck! I must have accidentally snuck up on a bird. Maybe I could get a great close-up shot. I slowly raised my camera and turned my body towards the olive tree. (Ok we all know where where this is going...)
I didn't see a bird. I saw the large, unmistakable eye of Africa's most venomous snake looking curiously back at me. Hello, Mrs. Boomslang.
She was eying me up, presumably trying to figure out if I was a threat. I started slowly moving from left to right to perfectly frame her head amongst the leaves. She looked at me some more. I got a nice photo (below). After a few minutes she gently turned back on her branch and started moving higher up the tree. I think she was just minding her own business, but on the off-chance she was trying to get away from me I took it as a cue to go put my feet up, have a beer and smile widely.
Whilst she does hold the record for deadliest venom drop-for-drop, that doesn't actually mean she's the most dangerous. There are other snakes in Africa - Puff Adders, Black Mambas etc - with 'weaker' venom that cause many more snakebites and deaths than her. This is often due to factors such as higher natural aggression or living in closer proximity to humans. But that certainly didn't make her presence any less electrifying.
I'm also very happy that I found her in an olive tree. I will always look back at this photo and remember my time on the olive farm with my family. For me, this is what nature is all about.
IMPORTANT: I am not an expert. Even though I didn't run away screaming I also made sure I kept a healthy distance and remained alert the whole time. I obviously encourage you to do the same if you come across a venomous snake, or if you're in a country with venomous snakes and aren't 200% sure it is not venomous. Don't be a dumbass <3
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