All photos of Kenya’s deadliest snakes below now accurately represent their appearance. Thanks to Chris Marsh and Blackmanstheory for bringing the earlier error to our attention.
Kenya is home to 126 snake species, but it’s unlikely that the average person will ever encounter one. Here, we’ll introduce the “Big Five” deadliest snakes of Africa found in Kenya.
Black Mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis)
The Black Mamba is widely considered one of Africa’s deadliest snakes. It instils fear in East, Central, and Southern Africa, where it is most commonly found. When cornered, it can become very aggressive. On average, adults of this species reach a length of 2.5 M (8 F), making it the largest venomous snake in Africa. It can also reach speeds of up to 20 KMH (12 MPH).
Black Mambas are not black at all but brown/olive-skinned. Their mouths are inky black, which they show when threatened. Black Mambas live in Savannah, scrub, tree hollows, and sometimes people’s homes.
If a Black Mamba encounters prey, it can strike up to twelve times, each time delivering enough neuro and cardio-toxic venom to kill a dozen men within an hour. Without anti-venom, the mortality rate is 100%.
Puff Adder (Bitis arietans)
The Puff Adder earns a place in our list of Africa’s deadliest snakes because it is responsible for the most human fatalities. Puff Adders have a solid build with a wide girth. They can reach an average length of around one metre.
Colour patterns vary depending on where they live. Their habitats extend throughout Africa except for dense rainforests and deserts.
The Puff Adder has large fangs, and its venom is powerful enough to kill a grown man with a single bite. Puff Adders rely on camouflage for protection and lie still if approached. Because of this, people tend to step on them and get bitten. Many fatalities occur because bites are improperly treated, leading to infection and gangrene.
Boomslang (Dispholidus typus)
The Boomslang is an extraordinarily dangerous tree-dwelling snake found in sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, its name in Afrikaans means ‘tree snake’. Females are brown, and males are light green with black highlights.
The Boomslang can reach an average length of 1.5 M (5 F). Human fatalities are rare since this snake is very timid but spectacular. Its venom, which it delivers through its fangs located at the back of its head, is haemotoxic, which means that it affects the body’s natural blood-clotting mechanism, resulting in the bleeding of the internal organs.
Sometimes, it can take as long as 24 hours before the venom symptoms can be felt or seen. However, once it gets to work, a person can bleed to death from every orifice.
African Rock Python (Python sebae)
The African Rock Python is the largest snake on the African continent and the third-largest globally. It grows to 6.5 M (25 F) long and weighs over 90 KG (200 LBS). The African Rock Python feeds on gazelle, birds, rodents, lizards, warthogs, baby crocodiles, and anything else it can ambush in that size range.
The snake is non-venomous, but that does not make it any less dangerous. It relies on stealth to get close and then latches onto prey with its teeth to coil around the victim’s body to prevent escape. Attacks on men are rare because humans are outside the normal size range for prey.
After a large meal, the snake will take a week or more to digest the contents of its stomach, and at this time, it is very vulnerable to other predators because it becomes very lethargic and less mobile.
Kenya has four Cobra species: the Black-Necked Spitting Cobra shown in this photo, the Red Spitting Cobra, the Egyptian and the Forest Cobra. The African Black Spitting Cobra (Naja nigricollis) was Africa’s largest Cobra for a long time. It reached a length of up to 7 feet in length.
But now the title rests with the Large Brown Spitting Cobra (Naja ashei). Naja ashei, discovered recently in Kenya, measures an amazing 15 feet.
This predator feeds primarily on snakes and rodents. As is the case with all cobras, the female lays the eggs. One clutch per year is deposited in rotting vegetation. 75-80 days is the average incubation time for this species.
Monitor lizards and other predators exert a heavy toll on the eggs in the nest, but baby cobras possess powerful venom to protect themselves.
The cobra can kill its first meal at birth, which it does not consume for almost a week while it completes absorbing nutrients from the egg.
Where to See Snakes in Kenya
Kenya has several places to see the big five snakes, including the Nairobi Snake Park at the National Museum. The Watamu Snake Park in Watamu has one of East Africa’s largest and most diverse collections of venomous snakes.
The park is open to the public and combines reptile research and education to deliver an all-round-snake experience. Here, you can observe nearly 50 snake species in Kenya, such as the Ashe’s Spitting Cobra, the Black Boomslang, and the notorious Black Mamba. They milk snake venom to produce antivenom used in treating snake bite victims. If you spot a snake in your compound and need it removed, the guys at the park provide removal services within the Watamu area. Hop on one of their snake safaris and learn about Africa’s deadliest snakes. Catch milking demos from Monday to Friday at 11 am.
If you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of some amazing snakes in their natural habitat, then you might want to consider visiting Tsavo East National Park, Amboseli National Park, or Lake Nakuru National Park. These incredible parks are home to diverse reptiles thanks to their richly unique ecosystems. The best time to see snakes is from June to October.