Drakensberg Snakes

Snakes are not confined to the tropical lowlands and are actually quite common in the Berg. They are often seen at The Cavern, causing something between fascination and alarm among visitors. Nearly all are harmless.

Most frequent, especially in the garden, is the Natal Green Snake. It is pure bright green. It sometimes zooms across the lawn, and likes sunning on bushes, or is often seen swimming. In the forest a similar thin green snake, but with black mottles on the neck, will be the Variegated Bush Snake.

A brownish snake in the water will be a Dusky-bellied Water Snake. It noses around on the stream bottoms looking for small fish. It holds its breath for many minutes. The Red-lipped Herald is olive rather than brown, with obvious orange lips. It likes crevices in walls and the water’s edge, looking for frogs. The Mole Snake is the biggest snake in the Berg. It can be two metres long, and thick, but with a small head. Its colour varies from a rich copper to grey or black. Much of its life is spent underground. Most other brownish snakes are thin and have longitudinal stripes. An example is the Spotted Skaapsteker, which might be seen flowing at lightning speed across a grassland path. A similar creature, that characteristically lashes from side to side, is not a snake at all but is a Seps – a lizard with legs so tiny that they do not touch the ground.

Only four snakes are potentially dangerous, but accidents are rare and most can be avoided with commonsense. The Puff Adder is the only one that is too slow to get out of the way. But it does not want to be trodden on, so be alert to loud huffing and puffing, Stand still, locate the threat and back away. Berg Adders are only likely on top of the Little Berg or higher. They like sunny ledges, so watch your hands when scrambling up steep slopes. Night Adders …. come out at night. Don’t walk outside with bare feet. Finally the Rinkhals, that looks like a cobra. It can spit in your eye, but its accuracy is greatly exaggerated. It will flee if permitted, or may “play dead”. Watch quietly from a distance to see it “recover”.

David Johnson


3 thoughts on “Drakensberg Snakes”

  1. I enjoyed seeing snakes with Michael , the wonderful Cavern guide, on our trip in May 2015. I hope when this pandemic is over, we can visit again. Wonderful resort.

    1. Megan Carte Bedingham

      Hello Martin.
      We’d love to welcome you back! We all look forward to an end to the pandemic. Fortunately Mike is still with us and he can take you hiking once more.
      Best wishes,

  2. Hi David,
    You are correct. I came across a very ugly snake at Kamberg camp, the staff informed me that it’s a rinkhal

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