36 COMMON Types of Snakes Found in Africa! (2023)

Do you want to learn about the types of snakes found in Africa?

If so, you have come to the right place. In the article below, I have listed the MOST COMMON snakes you can expect to see. Unfortunately, there are so many snakes that live in Africa that it would be impossible to list each one. ūüôā

 

You’ll see that the snakes in Africa are very different from each other. They range from venomous species to snakes that use constriction to immobilize their prey. In addition, certain snakes are common to find living around people. For each species, you will find out how to identify that snake correctly, along with pictures, interesting facts, and RANGE MAPS!

 

Here are 36 types of snakes that live in Africa:

 


#1. Puff Adder

  • Bitis arietans

Also known as the African Puff Adder and Common Puff Adder

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 100-150 cm (39-59 in) long.
  • They are commonly gray to dusty brown, with yellow chevrons on their backs.
  • There are two dark bands on the head, one on the crown and one between the eyes.
  • Male Puff Adders are usually larger than females.

 

Puff Adders are one of the most dangerous snakes in Africa.

 

This ill-tempered native snake roams savannas, grasslands, and ‚Äď to the great misfortune of inhabitants ‚Äď densely populated areas. The Puff Adder gets its name from how it inflates itself when threatened. Instead of moving away, it will hiss a warning to intruders before inflating and striking.

 

Its distinctive chevron pattern in yellow, white, and brown colors allows the Puff Adder to blend into its surroundings. This camouflage is particularly useful for its lifestyle as an ambush predator. Be careful where you wander because this highly-venomous, fast-striking snake seems to come out of nowhere.

The Puff Adder’s venom contains a cytotoxin that can kill a healthy adult human within a day. Their potent venom and tendency to loiter around footpaths make this snake one to avoid. Watch your step!

 


#2. Cape House Snake

  • Boaedon capensis

Also known as the Brown House Snake and Common House Snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 60 cm (24 in) on average, but they can grow up to 120 cm (47 in).¬†
  • They are various shades of yellow and brown, but some individuals are brick red.
  • You will notice two white lines on the head: one from the back of the eye to the tip of the mouth and the other from the nose to the back of the head.
  • The belly is creamy white, with stripes running along the body.¬†

 

The Cape House Snake is frequently seen in grassy and suburban areas, but it doesn’t stop there. As its name suggests, it has a habit of appearing in houses unannounced, especially at night!

Luckily, these snakes are harmless to humans. They slowly drag themselves around at night to catch unsuspecting rodents, lizards, and birds. Without venom to paralyze their prey, Cape House Snakes constrict their prey with strong muscles along their bodies.

 

The Cape House Snake is popular among exotic pet owners due to being low-maintenance. However, owners should be careful to keep these snakes separated. In captivity, they breed up to six times per year as opposed to two times in the wild.

 


#3. Boomslang

  • Dispholidus typus

Also known as Common African Tree Snake, Kivu Boomslang, and Kivu Large Green Tree Snake 

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are usually 100-160 cm (39-63 in) long.
  • Coloration varies greatly, allowing these snakes to camouflage in different terrains.
  • Generally, males are light green, scaled with black and blue, and females are brown.
  • Boomslangs have an egg-shaped head and notably large eyes.¬†

 

This slender snake in Africa makes its home in low-lying trees.

In fact, its common name Boomslang means “tree snake” in Afrikaans and Dutch. Be careful within this species’ range because the next vine you pull might become a deadly encounter!

This snake’s venom is highly potent, causing bleeding and death for humans, even in small doses. However, compared to front-fanged snakes, which release large amounts of venom at once, rear-fanged snakes like the Boomslang inject small amounts of venom in quick succession.

 

When confronted, the Boomslang will freeze and then swing its head from side to side before quickly attacking. Fortunately, Boomslangs won’t attack humans except as a last resort. If you are bitten, seek immediate treatment. Victims might get a false sense of safety because the venom is slow-acting, but many people have died from internal bleeding hours later.

 


#4. Cape Cobra

  • Naja nivea

Also known as Yellow Cobra and Black Spitting Cobra

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Their typical length is between 120-140 cm (47-55 in), but some have been recorded to grow up to 188 cm (74 in).
  • Male Cape Cobras are slightly larger than females.
  • Their colors vary, ranging from bright yellow, dark brown, and reddish black to speckled.¬†
  • Juveniles have dark bands from the throat to the belly for their first two years.

 

The Cape Cobra is found along savannas, shrublands, and deserts. Although it’s mostly a terrestrial snake that hunts on land, this venomous species is surprisingly agile near water or atop trees.

Be extra careful if you find yourself within Cape Cobra territory. Among snakes in Africa, it’s considered one of the most dangerous because its venom targets the respiratory and nervous systems. Seek immediate treatment if bitten because victims have been reported to die within an hour.¬†

 

Like most snakes, the Cape Cobra prefers to flee than fight. However, it can strike without notice if it feels trapped. Be especially wary during this cobra’s mating period in September and October, when it’s more aggressive than usual.

 


#5. Spotted Bush Snake

  • Philothamnus semivariegatus

Also known as Spotted Green Snake and Variegated Green Snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • They are typically 60-130 cm (24-51 in) long.
  • Spotted Bush Snakes have small heads, golden yellow eyes, and blue tongues.
  • The upper half of the body can be yellow, green, or blue, while the tail-end is brown. You might also find black spots or stripes.¬†

 

You might encounter the Spotted Bush Snake in Africa in forested areas or suburban gardens.

These beautifully-patterned snakes have keeled, or ridged, belly scales, allowing them to easily climb walls, trees, and bushes. Curiously, they’re fantastic swimmers as well!

Often misidentified as the more dangerous Green Mamba, Spotted Bush Snakes are non-venomous and harmless to humans. Instead, they’re patient hawk-eyed hunters, staying completely still before swiftly attacking lizards, geckos, and frogs in daylight.

 

Spotted Bush Snakes are alert, nervous animals and will immediately flee upon sensing danger. They don’t have established territories and are noted to travel far and wide in pursuit of their prey. So if¬†you find one astray in your home, leave a window open, and it’ll leave soon!

 


#6. Stripe-bellied Sand Snake

  • Psammophis subtaeniatus

Also known as Western Yellow-bellied Sand Snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Their average length is 70-140 cm (28-55 in).
  • As its common name suggests, it has prominent stripes along the body from head to tail. The belly is yellow.
  • Look for a slender head and large eyes.¬†

 

Try not to blink, or you might miss seeing one of the fastest snakes in Africa!

Stripe-bellied Sand Snakes are swift enough to successfully hunt birds, lizards, rodents, and even other snakes. But thankfully, it poses no threat to humans.

The Stripe-bellied Sand Snake frequents arid habitats such as savannas and rocky hillsides. Here, it indulges in one of its favorite pastimes‚Äď basking in the sun! Consequently, it’s¬†most active during the hottest hours of the day.

 

Interestingly, they share a trait commonly seen in house geckos. If a predator catches its tail, the snake snaps it off and slithers away to nearby shrubs and trees for safety. The tail grows back, but it’s usually less colorful and shorter than before.

 


#7. Black Mamba

  • Dendroaspis polylepis

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 200-450 cm (79-177 in).¬†
  • Its coloring is usually brown, olive green, or yellow. Black specimens with purplish scales are very rare.
  • Juveniles are usually gray or green, but they darken with age.

 

In small woodlands and rocky outcrops of sub-Saharan Africa lurks what many consider the world’s deadliest snake. The Black Mamba is named after the inky coloring of the inside of its mouth, something you should hope never to see! It likes to nest in burrows, so stay alert around suspicious holes.

The fatally potent venom of the Black Mamba targets the nervous system and the heart. Difficulty breathing can occur within 10 minutes. If you get bitten, it’s a race against time, so get medical attention immediately!¬†

 

In addition to their highly toxic venom, Black Mambas are terrifyingly fast. They can move 16 kph (10 mph) for short distances and even lunge at prey or attackers.

 

Contrary to popular belief, these snakes are rather shy and will choose to escape when given a chance. They raise their heads, spread their cobra-like neck hoods, and hiss loudly as a warning to would-be attackers. So the¬†best thing to do if you encounter the Black Mamba is to slowly back away, making sure it doesn’t feel cornered.

 


#8. Red-lipped Snake 

  • Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia

Also known as Common Herald Snake, White-lipped Herald Snake, Savanna White-lipped Snake, Black-templed Cat Snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • This snake can grow to 70-100 cm (28-39 in) long.¬†
  • Coloration is usually olive green or gray on the back, sometimes speckled white. Its head is notably black.¬†
  • True to its name, it has a bright red (sometimes orange or yellow) upper lip most prominently displayed when it feels threatened.
  • The head is broad and triangular, while the tail is short.¬†

 

You’ll find Red-lipped Snakes near marshlands, bogs, and lowland forests in Africa.

They also gravitate towards the suburbs, so you might bump into one in your backyard after an evening rain. 

Most active during the night, these land snakes prey on amphibians such as toads and frogs. Their venom is mild, effective only on their chosen prey, and harmless to humans. They also have a mild and shy demeanor.

 

Don’t test your luck, though. Red-lipped snakes have a trigger-happy temper when provoked. So even though its venom isn’t dangerous, its bite is still painful!

 

Interestingly, the Red-lipped Snake got its other common name, the Herald Snake, from a newspaper story. It was first mentioned in the Eastern Cape’s Herald newspaper!

 


#9. Southern African Python

  • Python natalensis

Also known as Lesser African Python, South African Rock Python, Natal Rock Python

Identifying Characteristics:

  • On average, this large snake is 280-460 cm (110-181 inches) long, with rare specimens reaching 600 cm (236 inches).
  • Females are much heavier than males.
  • Its broad head is marked by an arrow shape on the crown.
  • The coloration is dark brown speckled with gray, with a white underside.

 

This species is one of the largest snakes in Africa.

It regularly grows longer than four meters (13 feet), and some rare individuals reach a staggering six meters (20 feet) long! Look for the Southern African Python in woodlands and savannas, close to water sources such as lakes, streams, and rivers.

This python’s main diet consists of warm-blooded animals like monkeys, large birds, and even young antelopes. If warm-blooded prey isn’t abundant, it will eat fish and even small crocodiles. As with the rest of the python family, it kills by constriction and swallows its prey whole.

 

Although they’re non-venomous, they’re big enough to kill and eat humans on rare occasions! Thankfully, Southern African Pythons are not aggressive and usually don’t bother people. Instead, they prefer basking lazily in the sun while submerged in shallow waters.

 


#10. Ball Python

  • Python regius

Also known as the Royal Python

Identifying Characteristics:

  • These relatively small snakes only measure 100-182 cm (39-72 in) long.
  • They have small heads and thin necks. Their scales are smooth.
  • Ball Pythons can be black or brown-bodied with light and dark blotches on the back. The belly is white.
  • Sometimes, yellow stripes appear from the nostrils to the eyes.

 

As you might have guessed from its name, the Ball Python is more likely to curl into a ball than bite if threatened. However, because of their docile behavior, many people choose to keep them as pets. With proper care, they live 15-30 years on average.

 

Unfortunately, the pet trade has wreaked havoc on their worldwide distribution.¬†Because of poaching, habitat destruction, and egg hunting for trade, Ball Pythons are listed as a Near Threatened species by the IUCN. On the other hand, irresponsible pet owners have let Ball Pythons escape, allowing this species to become invasive in places where it’s not native.

In the wild, the smaller males hunt birds and bats in trees, while the larger females hunt rodents or small mammals on land. Both males and females incapacitate their prey with crushing constriction, then swallow it whole. 

 


#11. Forskal Sand Snake

  • Psammophis schokari

Also known as Schokari Sand Racer and Afro-Asian Sand Snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • It is a slender snake about 70-150 cm (28-59 in) long with a tapering tail.
  • The head is flat and elongated. The snout is long. The eyes are large with rounded pupils.
  • Coloration greatly varies depending on habitat:
    • Morph #1: Light brown with dark stripes, appropriate for densely vegetated areas
    • Morph #2: Light-colored with little to no stripes, a good camouflage for sandy terrain

 

The Forskal Sand Snake is something you might encounter in sandy deserts, shrublands, or oases. It’s an excellent tree climber. However, it¬†also makes its home under rocks and abandoned burrows.¬†

Its other common name, the Schokari Sand Racer, hints at its outstanding speed! Its agility and venom allow it to quickly immobilize lizards, frogs, rodents, and birds. Although most active during the day, it prefers to hunt at night during the hotter months.

 

If you try to approach this mild-mannered snake, it will likely retreat into a nearby hole or bush. Forskal Sand Snakes are harmless to humans. Quite the opposite, these little helpers keep the vermin population in check!

 


#12. Desert Horned Viper

  • Cerastes cerastes

Also known as Saharan Horned Viper, North African Horned Viper, Greater Cerastes

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 30-85 cm (12-33 in) long. Females are longer, but males have larger heads and eyes.
  • Their coloring ranges from yellow, gray, pink, and red to brown.
  • This species owes its common name to the pair of horn-like protrusions above its eyes. Also notable are the rectangular blotches along its body.
  • They have heavily keeled scales that they rub together to make a rasping sound when they feel threatened.

 

While looking for snakes in Africa, you might find a pattern of strange S-shaped markings in the sand.

If you find this pattern, tread carefully! A Desert Horned Viper might be nearby.

This nocturnal viper is an ambush predator. It lies submerged in sand, waiting for an opportunity for lunch in the form of lizards and rodents. It bites down, then holds its prey in its jaws until the venom does its work. 

 

While there are no known human fatalities from a Desert Horned Viper, its bite can still cause intense swelling and hemorrhage. Seek immediate treatment if you get bitten. This viper is not known for its easy-going nature, so back down and move away slowly if you find yourself in a face-off against one.

 


#13. Egyptian Cobra

  • Naja haje

Also known as the Brown Cobra

Identifying Characteristics:

  • On average, these snakes are 140-259 cm (55-102 in) long.
  • The easiest way to recognize the Egyptian Cobra is through its broad, flattened head distinct from its long, ribbed neck, which expands to form a hood when it feels threatened.
  • Coloration varies geographically, but the most common is brown. However, some snakes are red, gray, or black.

 

The Egyptian Cobra is as deadly as it is famous. It can be traced back to ancient Egypt, where Pharaohs used it to symbolize their power to take life. Today, you’ll find this snake in Africa swimming in shallow waters or resting in abandoned animal burrows.¬†

The venom of the Egyptian Cobra has neurotoxins and cytotoxins that assault the nervous system. Respiratory failure and death may happen in the worst-case scenario. The venom is slow-acting, so seek treatment if you get bitten, even if you don’t immediately show symptoms.¬†

 

Foraging for food sometimes brings the Egyptian Cobra to human settlements. However, it will favor escaping if confronted. Its favorite meals are toads, but it will also go for lizards, birds, and other snakes.

 


#14. Algerian Whip Snake

  • Hemorrhois algirus

Also known as Algerian Grass Snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are about 70-140 cm (28-55 in) long.¬†
  • They have slender, cylindrical bodies with long tails.¬†
  • These snakes are usually beige or green, contrasted by black transverse bars along their body.¬†
  • Some individuals have a horseshoe marking or rounded blotches on the head.

 

Algerian Whip Snakes aren’t long-distance travelers, rarely straying far from their lairs. However, they like having a water supply close by, so riverbanks and ponds are likely spots. In addition, you¬†might find them foraging for food near old buildings, gardens, and open parks.¬†

If you encounter one, there’s no need to worry. Their venom only harms smaller prey like lizards, mice, and songbirds. Notably timid, they prefer escaping over confrontation. Still, they are quick to bite if handled, so try not to get too close!

 


#15. Sahara Sand Viper

  • Cerastes vipera

Also known as Sahara Hornless Viper, Lesser Cerastes, Common Sand Viper, Egyptian Asp, Cleopatra’s Asp, Avicenna Viper

Identifying Characteristics:

  • These are short snakes, measuring only 20-60 cm (8-24 in) long.
  • Body coloration is light brown to orange-red.
  • Females are considerably larger than males, and the tips of their tails are distinctly black.
  • They have broad, triangular heads when viewed from above.

 

The Sahara Sand Viper is small, thick-bodied, and highly venomous. Look for this snake in the deserts of Africa.

 

A nocturnal predator, the Sahara Sand Viper lays patiently under cover of sand with only its eyes and snout uncovered. It can wait for hours in preparation for an ambush. Occasionally, it uses the black tip of its tail to lure unfortunate lizards, rodents, and geckos to their death.

Its venom is not fatal to humans, but be careful as bites are serious enough to warrant a visit to the hospital. When threatened, the Sahara Sand Viper rubs the sides of its scaled body together, producing a raspy hissing noise. Observe from a distance, as this is an irritable snake!

 


#16. Moorish Viper

  • ¬†Daboia mauritanica

Also known as Sahara Rock Viper, Atlas Blunt-nosed Viper, Atlas Adder, Mountain Adder

Identifying Characteristics:

  • The Moorish Viper grows 130-240 cm (51-94 in) long.
  • It’s usually gray or brown, but some have been observed to be red or green.
  • Circular spots and pigmented zig-zags appear along the back.¬†
  • It has a strong, well-built body, but its weight makes it a slow-moving snake.¬†

 

Look for the venomous Moorish Viper in moderately humid woodlands, watering holes, or rocky crevices. It can be difficult to find because it prefers tight spaces. Upon sensing danger, this species coils into itself, flattening its head and hissing loudly to dissuade attackers. 

The Moorish Viper is an ambush predator that hunts during the early evening hours. It strategically positions itself along animal paths and will lie in wait for prey, so use caution when following these trails! It has a taste for lizards, small mammals, and young birds.

 

Listed as a Near Threatened species by the IUCN, Moorish Vipers are often killed by humans in road encounters or sold by poachers for snake charming exhibitions. Its venom is hemotoxic and will cause excessive bleeding in unlucky victims. Hopefully, not you!

 


#17. Gaboon Viper

  • Bitis gabonica

Also known as Gaboon Adder, Forest Puff Adder, Butterfly Adder, Whisper, Swampjack

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Their typical size is 80‚Äď205 cm (31-81 in) long.
  • Females are heavy and stout, while males have longer tails in proportion to their body length.
  • You’ll see faded, rectangular blotches down the snake’s back, with yellowish hourglass-shaped marks along the gaps.

 

The Gaboon Viper boasts the longest fangs of any snake in Africa!

Incredibly, they can grow up to 6 cm (2.3 in) long. This is one snake you definitely want to steer clear of!

Interestingly, its fangs aren’t the only unusual thing about this species. It also has the highest venom yield of any snake worldwide because of its hunting style. Unlike most vipers, it doesn’t release once it engages in a bite, injecting massive amounts of venom into its prey.

 

Watch your step because this nocturnal viper has near-perfect camouflage. It’s practically invisible amid fallen leaves on the forest floor and can remain motionless for hours hunting small birds and mammals.

 

The Gaboon Viper’s venom can be fatal in large doses or cause severe necrosis in the bite area. Fortunately, bite incidents are rare. These snakes are normally non-aggressive, sluggish, and are only encountered in dense rainforests.

 


#18. Central African Rock Python

  • Python sebae

Also known as Northern African Rock Python

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults reach impressive lengths of 350-750 cm (138-295 in).
  • It has two noticeable lines from the nose to the back of the head.
  • Striped blotches decorate the body, colored olive, brown, or yellow.¬†
  • There is a distinct yellow inverted “V” marking under the eyes.

 

The Central African Rock Python is the longest snake in Africa!

 

Found near bodies of water, this heavyweight python enjoys environments such as forests, savannas, swamps, and semi-deserts.

Central African Rock Pythons may be non-venomous, but don’t let that give you a false sense of security. This species is strong enough to kill a human with its powerful constriction. Additionally, they routinely swallow antelopes, monkeys, and monitor lizards whole.

 

Unlike most snakes, Central African Rock Pythons are protective mothers. They fiercely guard their nest after laying eggs, protecting their young from predators and lashing out at unsuspecting passersby. They’re even known to be territorial of a nest after the eggs have hatched!

 


#19. Rhinoceros Viper

  • Bitis nasicornis

Also known as Butterfly Viper, Rhinoceros Horned Viper, River Jack, Horned Puff Adder

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults grow to 60-120 cm (24-47 in).
  • You can easily identify this viper by its striking geometric markings in shades of blue, green, yellow, and black. These patterns can be oblong or diamond in shape.
  • The colors appear duller after shedding its skin, allowing silt to cover the rough scales.

 

The Rhinoceros Viper is named for its elongated scales on top of its nose, which resemble rhinoceros horns. It prefers forested and marshy areas and is mostly terrestrial. However, it’s also excellent at climbing trees and swimming in shallow bodies of water.

If patience is your virtue, then you might appreciate this ambush predator. Most of the Rhinoceros Viper’s life is spent lying motionless, waiting for prey to pass by. It feeds on small mammals in forests or amphibians and fish in wetlands.

 

This snake’s venom is incredibly potent and lethal to humans. The poison attacks cell tissue and blood vessels, leading to internal bleeding. Luckily, the Rhinoceros Viper has a calm disposition and you will be warned with a prolonged hiss if you come close, which means you NEED to back away slowly.

 


#20. Olive Whip Snake

  • Psammophis mossambicus¬†

Also known as Olive Grass Snake, Olive Sand Snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 100-180 cm long (39-71 in) on average.
  • It’s mostly olive-brown, but some specimens are black.¬†
  • There are dark-edged scales along the neck and body. The underside is yellow.

 

This snake in Africa is a common resident of grasslands and swamplands.

You might find the Olive Whip Snake prowling near water sources during the day, so keep a keen eye out! Be alert around trees and shrubs, too, because it’s an adept climber.

The Olive Grass Snake is not nearly as venomous as the Black Mamba, but it often gets mistaken for one. This is due to its size and tendency to lift its forebody off the ground to an impressive height. Its food sources are also similar to the Black Mamba: lizards, rodents, frogs, and fellow venomous snakes.

 

Despite its weight, the Olive Grass Snake moves incredibly fast. And while it prefers a speedy retreat when sensing danger, it may choose to lunge and bite. Fortunately, its venom is mild for humans. 

 


#21. Blanding’s Tree Snake

  • Toxicodryas blandingii

Also known as Blanding’s Cat Snake, Black and Yellow Tree Snake, Brown Tree Snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • These are thick-bodied snakes with slender tails, measuring 160-279 cm (63-110 in) long.
  • Females and subadults are brown and spotted, while males are black and yellow.
  • They have short, broad heads distinct from their narrow necks.
  • Vertical slits punctuate their large, dark eyes.¬†

 

The Blanding’s Tree Snake makes its home in rainforests and wooded savannas south of the Sahara desert. As an exceptionally talented climber, it can be found up to 30 meters (98 feet) off the ground in the trees.

This rear-fanged snake hunts by moving slowly across intertwining branches to inspect the cracks and hollows of trunks. They have an appetite for rodents, lizards, chameleons, and bird eggs.

 

You might chance upon it in parks and gardens searching for prey. Occasionally, this snake wanders inside buildings to hunt roosting bats.¬†It inflates its body and opens its mouth wide as a warning before striking.¬†While Blanding’s Tree Snakes are venomous, they don’t pose a significant threat to humans.

 


#22. Emerald Snake

  • Hapsidophrys smaragdinus

Also known as Emerald Tree Snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • These snakes are 76-122 cm (30-48 in).
  • Their coloring is emerald green, with some aqua blue scales.
  • The short head is strongly arched between the eyes.¬†

 

As an arboreal species, the Emerald Snake in Africa spends most of its life climbing, hunting, and traveling from tree to tree. Its deep green camouflage and slender vine-like appearance make it nearly invisible among vines and foliage! Consequently, you’ll have to look hard if you want to catch it in action.

Emerald Snakes have a particularly interesting defense mechanism that starts with inflating the skin of its neck. Once inflated, a pattern of black skin, light blue spots, and green scales are revealed, startling and confusing the predator. This display gives the Emerald Snake a chance to retreat into the tangle of leaves and branches quickly.

 

Emerald Snakes are non-venomous and non-aggressive, but their bites may cause rashes and itchiness. Because of their docile nature and bright coloring, they are sometimes sold as pets, living 10-15 years in captivity.

 


#23. Forest Cobra 

  • Naja melanoleuca

Also known as Central African Forest Cobra, Black Cobra, Black and White-lipped Cobra

  • A. Morph #1 (for forests): Glossy black body with broad cross-bars and blotches. There are black and white bars on the lips. The underside is white.
  • B. Morph #2 (for savannas): The body has black and yellow bands with a black tail. The head, lips, and throat are yellow.
  • C. Morph #3 (for coastal plains): Black body fades to brown towards the tail. The belly is creamy yellow and heavily speckled. Some specimens are completely black.

 

If you want to avoid this snake in Africa, don’t go peeking around holes in the ground!

This DANGEROUS venomous species likes to nest in burrows. The Forest Cobra is the largest cobra species in the world, attaining lengths of 140-320 cm (55-126 in), and prefers living in wet woods. However, it adapts easily to drier environments as long as there’s access to a body of water.

These snakes eat a wide variety of food. Being semi-aquatic, they sometimes enjoy hunting for fish and amphibians. But they also spend time hunting rodents, lizards, and other snakes on land. However, tree-dwellers aren’t safe either. The Forest cobra will nimbly climb trees to eat insects and bird eggs.¬†

 

A bite from a Forest Cobra delivers large quantities of highly potent venom, capable of killing a human within 30 minutes. Therefore, extreme caution is advised in the presence of this highly aggressive and dangerous snake.

 


#24. Brown House Snake

  • Boaedon fuliginosus

Also known as the Common African House Snake, Sooty House Snake, Black House Snake, Olive House Snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults average a length of 60-150 cm (24-59 in).¬†
  • Juveniles are solid black, while adults are dark brown or gray with faint stripes and spots.
  • The scales are smooth and iridescent, appearing white when they reflect light.
  • Its body is thinner at the sides.

 

The Brown House Snake is one of the most common snakes in Africa.

Its name hints at its habit of visiting homes, which is where most people see this species. However, this nocturnal snake can also thrive in woodlands, savannas, scrublands, and grasslands. 

Brown House Snakes seek small mammals and reptiles as a food source. They put their prey into a stranglehold and swallow them whole without chewing. They particularly enjoy mice, so if you’re dealing with an infestation, these snakes might be nearby.

 

Luckily, the Brown House Snake is non-venomous and timid. It’s likely to flee or curl up tightly into a corner if threatened.

 


#25. Brown Forest Cobra

  • Naja subfulva

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 200-275 cm (79-108 in) long on average.
  • They are mostly brownish yellow on the head, darkening to pitch black on the tail. There are light-colored spots all over the body.
  • Other notable characteristics are black stripes under the eyes and a band of small black dots near the throat.¬†

 

Brown Forest Cobras are mostly limited to savanna woodlands in Africa. This highly alert and intelligent cobra leaves its lair when the sun is out. If it’s not busy basking in the heat, it goes hunting for its usual lunch: birds and small mammals.

Thankfully, snakebite incidents are rare because Brown Forest Cobras live far away from human civilization. Even if you encounter them, their first instinct is to flee. Nonetheless, stay back as their venom can cause tissue damage, difficulty breathing, and even death if left untreated.

 


#26. Black-necked Spitting Cobra

  • Naja nigricollis

  • A. Morph #1: Black or gray body with pink bars on the broad neck and a reddish belly.
  • B. Morph #2: Light brown or yellow body with no neck bands.
  • C. Morph #3: White and black stripes on the body or solid white with dark eyes.
  • Average length is 1-2 m (4-7 ft).

 

Look for these snakes in Africa near streams and rivers in savannas.

Black-necked Spitting Cobras are highly adaptable and can be active day or night. This far-ranging snake’s prey includes small vertebrates on the ground or bird eggs in trees.

When confronting possible threats, Black-necked Spitting Cobras rise from the ground and spread their impressive neck hoods. Then, true to their name, they will spit venom to blind their aggressors. Keep your eyes covered because these cobras have amazing aim and can hit their target up to seven meters away!

 

Black-necked Spitting Cobra bites can cause symptoms such as swelling, blistering, extreme pain, and loss of limb function. In worst-case scenarios, death may occur due to paralysis of the diaphragm.

 


#27. Horned Adder

  • Bitis caudalis

Also known as Horned Puff Adder, Horned Viper, Sidewinding Adder, Common Single-horned Adder

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 30-51 cm (12-20 in) long.
  • Body coloration appears in shades of brown, gray, yellow, and red.
  • Males have more vibrant colors, while females are significantly larger.

 

Horned Adders are one of the smallest snakes in Africa, but they are fierce when disturbed.

 

This species owes its common name to the prominent horn-like scale above each eye. Horned Adders inhabit scrublands and semi-deserts because their repetitive sidewinding motion is efficient in sandy terrain.

As an ambush predator, this adder will bury itself into the sand just deep enough for its eyes to poke out. Then, it uses its black-tipped tail to lure prey in the form of geckos, rodents, and birds. Horned Adders are most active at dusk. In the daytime, they enjoy the shade of rocks and bushes.

 

The venom, containing mild cytotoxins, has been known to cause serious pain and skin ulcers. Listen carefully for angry hisses as you might accidentally cross paths with a Horned Adder already in striking position!

 


#28. Twig Snake

  • Thelotornis capensis

Also known as Cape Twig Snake, Savanna Vine Snake, Southern Bird Snake, Cape Twig Snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • These are slender snakes with very long tails, measuring 100-168 cm (39-66 in) in total length.
  • Look for a flattened bluish-green head, keyhole-shaped pupils, large black fangs, and a reddish-black tongue.
  • Body coloration is brown or gray with blotches.

 

As the name suggests, you might mistake this snake in Africa for a twig!

 

Twig Snakes hang perfectly still on branches of low shrubs, waiting for passing chameleons, frogs, and birds. They are patient predators and can maintain this posture for hours. When disturbed, they inflate their necks like a balloon as a scare tactic.

Take great care when trekking through coastal forests and woodlands. Its coloration allows it to blend in with the bark and branches of trees. Although it’s unassuming, the Twig Snake is venomous and very dangerous.

 

The Twig Snake’s venom is a slow-acting poison that can cause profuse bleeding and hemorrhage. One German herpetologist named Robert Mertens died 18 days after being bitten by his pet Twig Snake. So, get quick medical treatment for a bite even if you don’t have immediate symptoms.

 


#29. Mole Snake

  • Pseudaspis cana

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults grow up to 207 cm (81 in) long.
  • Colors are commonly gray, red, or black on the body. The belly is white, speckled with dark spots.
  • Juveniles are light brown with white zig-zags or spots.¬†
  • They use their small heads, pointed snouts, and narrow necks to hunt underground.

 

Look for Mole Snakes in Africa in scrublands and mountainous regions.

You are most likely to find one near rodent burrows where it spends the day foraging for its next meal. In fact, this species was named after the Golden Moles it loves to feast on.

A curious quirk of this muscular snake is that it’s viviparous. So instead of laying eggs as most reptiles do, the Mole Snake will give birth to live babies. Incredibly, a single mole snake can give birth to up to 95 babies at once!

 

Mole Snakes may be non-venomous, but you should still be careful if handling one. With strong, very sharp teeth, they can inflict deep wounds that need stitches. In addition, they’re extremely aggressive. They are often mistaken for Cape Cobras because of their short tempers and notorious ferocity.

 


#30. Common Slug-Eater

  • Duberria lutrix

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults grow to only about 40 cm (16 in).¬†
  • Typically, they have black-striped green or brown backs, white and yellow bellies, and gray sides.¬†

 

Common Slug-Eaters are non-venomous snakes endemic to the damp grasslands of Southern Africa. True to their name, they feed on a specialized diet of snails and slugs. They have a calm demeanor, and they pose no danger to humans.

This snake is known to hunt its prey down by following slime trails. Once it locates a meal, it quickly swallows the soft body before the snail or slug can secrete foul, defensive mucus. In the case of snails, Common Slug-eaters are known to bash the hard shell against a rock to break it open.

 


#31. Viperine Snake

  • Natrix maura

viperine snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Colors range between gray, brown, or reddish.
  • Down its back, look for a black, zig-zag stripe. Along the sides are black circles.
  • Adults can grow to 85 cm (33 in).

 

Despite its name, Viperine Snakes are NOT venomous. But they share many behavioral similarities with Adders (which ARE venomous), along with looking alike, which is how they got their name.

Viperine Snake Range Map

viperine snake range map

To find this snake in Africa, you must head to an aquatic habitat as they are water snakes. They are strong swimmers and primarily hunt and eat fish and frogs.

 

While Viperine Snakes are fairly common, they are sensitive to changes and pollution in their wetland habitats. In addition, they are often killed by people who mistake them for a venomous viper.

 


#32. Western Montpellier Snake

  • Malpolon monspessulanus

western montpillier snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Quite large and can grow to be up to 2 meters long (6.5 feet) and weigh 1.5 kg (3.3 lbs)!
  • Large prominent eyes with a distinct “eyebrow,” which is a ridge above their eye.
  • The body is a uniform yellowish, gray, or olive, often followed by a bluish or dark gray “saddle” on the back.

 

Despite being venomous, these snakes are not considered a threat to humans in Africa.

 

First, the venom has low toxicity and is not very dangerous. Second, when they feel threatened, Western Montpellier Snakes typically slither away quickly. And if they can’t get away, they first try to scare you away by hissing repeatedly, then raising the front of their body and expanding their neck, just like a cobra!

Western Montpellier Snake Range Map

Lastly, since the fangs are positioned toward the back of the mouth, it’s unlikely any venom would be released during a bite. Only a few cases of venom being injected into a person have ever been reported.

 

Western Montpellier Snakes adapt to the presence of humans quite well and are common, despite their large size. Look for them in a wide range of habitats. Their main prey includes lizards, so they are often found in dry areas where lizards like to inhabit.

 


#33. Southern Smooth Snake

  • Coronella girondica

southern smooth snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • A small, round-bodied snake that grows from 50-80 cm (20-31 in) long.
  • They are brown or grayish, with blackish bars or spots running down their back.
  • The rear of the head is a dark U-shaped mark or a pair of dark elongate spots.

 

Look for this snake in Africa living in dry, rocky open spaces. Rocky hillsides, stone walls, quarries, and the edges of open woodlands and hedgerows offer lots of hiding places for Southern Smooth Snakes.

Southern Smooth Snake Range Map

This small snake is discreet and hard to find. In addition, they are mainly active at night. And if you come across a Southern Smooth Snake, they are harmless and rarely bite. The worst thing they will probably do is release a smelly substance onto your hand.

 

They primarily eat small lizards and hunt for them by actively searching in their shelters. In contrast to the Smooth Snake, they lay eggs instead of giving birth to live young.

 


#34. Horseshoe Whip Snake

  • Hemorrhois hippocrepis

horseshoe whip snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Usually grows to around 160 cm (63 in) in length.
  • Yellow, beige, olive, or gray. They get darker with age.
  • A row of round dark spots on the back. Smaller dark patches on each side.
  • Dark horseshoe-shaped marking on the neck and a dark band between the eyes.

 

Look for Horseshoe Whip Snakes in Africa in dry, rocky, sunny areas with open vegetation. They are also sometimes found in urban areas and rural gardens, especially near stone walls.

Horseshoe Whip Snake Range Map

These snakes are incredibly agile and fast-moving. So it should be no surprise that they actively hunt their prey, which includes small mammals, lizards, birds, and invertebrates.

 

Horseshoe Whip Snakes are shy and usually run away quickly at the first sign of danger. This wariness, combined with their fast speed, means getting a good look at one can be hard. If they become cornered and can’t escape, they will flatten their head, hiss loudly, and bite readily!

 


#35. Iberian False Smooth Snake

  • Macroprotodon brevis

iberian false smooth snake

Also called the Western False Smooth Snake.

Identifying Characteristics:

  • The average size of adults is 65 cm (26 in).
  • Fairly slender snake. They are pale gray or brown with a row of dark blotches on their back.
  • Look for a dark gray or brown color over the neck and a dark streak under the eye.

 

These snakes do best in warm weather and are typically found in sandy soil around loose rocks or large boulders. But they are also known to frequent dunes, orchards, and pine forests.

 

Iberian False Smooth Snakes can be hard to locate in Africa because they are completely nocturnal and crepuscular. They come out at night to hunt on the ground for geckos, lizards, and worm lizards. Interestingly, worm lizards make up about half their diet.

Iberian False Smooth Snake Range Map

You might not guess it, but Iberian False Smooth Snakes are venomous! They are opisthoglyphous, meaning¬†that the rear teeth in the upper jaw have been modified as fangs. Since their fangs are at the very back of their mouth, it’s almost impossible for them to inject venom into a human. In addition, their mouth is too small, and the toxicity of the venom is too low to cause any damage to a person.

 


#36. Sand Boa

  • Eryx jaculus

sand boa

Also known as the Javelin Sand Boa.

Identifying Characteristics:

  • It can grow as large as 80¬†cm (31 in).
  • The head has no distinction from the body. A dark stripe runs from the eyes to the neck.
  • Coloration is cream, beige, and yellow to bright orange. Irregular dark blotches line the back, and small spots cover the sides.

 

These African snakes are not typically found in sandy areas despite their name. Instead, the best places for them are savanna-like habitats with loam soil or rocky slopes (if there is enough loose soil).

Sand Boa Range Map

sand boa range map

Credit: RepFocus

 

Sand Boas are hard to see because they are nocturnal and spend most of their life underground. They don’t come out to bask in the sun but instead get warm by basking just under fallen leaves, stones, or the surface of loose soil. They rarely bite when handled and typically act sluggish.

 

These snakes have an interesting role in history. To cause confusion and fear during naval battles, they were shot by the ancient Greeks at their enemies! And as the Greeks conquered new territories, the range of Sand Boas also increased. ūüôā

 


Do you need more help identifying a snake you saw in Africa?

 

If so, check out these field guides, which are full of great information!


Learn more about animals found in Africa in these ID Guides:


Which of these snakes have you seen before in Africa?

 

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