Do you want to learn about the types of snakes found in Kenya?
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 Kenya that it would be impossible to list each one. 🙂
You’ll see that the snakes in Kenya 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 14 types of snakes that live in Kenya:
#1. Puff Adder
- Bitis arietans
Also known as the African Puff Adder and Common Puff Adder
- 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 Kenya.
This ill-tempered native snake roams savannas, grasslands, and – to the great misfortune of inhabitants – 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!
- Dispholidus typus
Also known as Common African Tree Snake, Kivu Boomslang, and Kivu Large Green Tree Snake
- 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 Kenya 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.
#3. Spotted Bush Snake
- Philothamnus semivariegatus
Also known as Spotted Green Snake and Variegated Green Snake
- 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 Kenya 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!
#4. Black Mamba
- Dendroaspis polylepis
- 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 Kenya 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.
#5. Red-lipped Snake
- Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia
Also known as Common Herald Snake, White-lipped Herald Snake, Savanna White-lipped Snake, Black-templed Cat Snake
- 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 Kenya.
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!
#6. Southern African Python
- Python natalensis
Also known as Lesser African Python, South African Rock Python, Natal Rock Python
- 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 Kenya.
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.
#7. Gaboon Viper
- Bitis gabonica
Also known as Gaboon Adder, Forest Puff Adder, Butterfly Adder, Whisper, Swampjack
- Their typical size is 80–205 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 Kenya!
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.
#8. Central African Rock Python
- Python sebae
Also known as NorthernAfrican Rock Python
- 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 Kenya!
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!
#9. Rhinoceros Viper
- Bitis nasicornis
Also known as Butterfly Viper, Rhinoceros Horned Viper, River Jack, Horned Puff Adder
- 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.
#10. Olive Whip Snake
- Psammophis mossambicus
Also known as Olive Grass Snake, Olive Sand Snake
- 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 Kenya 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.
#11. Brown House Snake
- Boaedon fuliginosus
Also known as the Common African House Snake, Sooty House Snake, Black House Snake, Olive House Snake
- 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 Kenya.
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.
#12. Brown Forest Cobra
- Naja subfulva
- 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 Kenya. 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.
#13. 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 Kenya 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.
#14. Common Slug-Eater
- Duberria lutrix
- 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 Kenya. 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.
Do you need more help identifying a snake you saw in Africa?
If so, check out this field guide, which is full of great information!
Learn more about animals found in Kenya in these ID Guides:
Which of these snakes have you seen before in Kenya?
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