By Eden Burning

As part of my 4 week internship program for my semester abroad with St Lawrence University, I joined a  half-day snake safari with Watamu Snake Farm. I was excited as we set out on foot from the Farm, nice and early, to explore the coastal snake capital of Africa. Our first stop was a cave teeming with bats. Stepping into the cool darkness, we were greeted by the sight of hundreds of bats hanging from the ceiling. It was here that we encountered the endangered Hildegarde’s Tomb Bat, a fascinating species that calls this cave home. The guides explained that the caves are a great habitat in which to find snakes, they provide good shelter and living conditions for snakes, it is a safe place for them to incubate their eggs and importantly many snakes eat bats. They told us that they often see snakes moving on the ground, or at the entrance to the caves looking for young bats which have fallen from the Cave Roof. Unfortunately we were not lucky enough to find any snakes in the cave, so we continued on our journey.

Closer to the farm, recent urban development and land clearing by local farmners made snake hunting quite tricky but as we pushed deeper into the wilderness, we encountered our first snake—a speckled green snake (philothammnus punctatus) which was hiding in the branches of a tree. This is a very pretty, non-venomous, arboreal, species that lives along the coast in Kenya. We managed to catch it and pose for a few photos, before we released it back into the wild.

It wasnt long before we spotted another speckled green snake hiding in a tree close by. We attempted to catch it, but this one was not quite as accommodating as the first one. Continuing our walk we soon came across a speckled sand snake (Psammophis punctulatus). This partially arboreal species prefers dry savanna and desert areas and is incredibly fast, which we learned specifically when trying to catch it. Needless to say this one was way too fast for us!!

As we came to the end of our walk we weren’t able to find any more snakes, however, we did spot a very large golden orb weaver spider and lots of beautiful plants. We ended our walk at an impressive three-cavern cave system, which was beautiful. A large baobab grew up from the center and bats flew around above our heads. We learned that these caves were used during the slave trade, and that the cave had actually extended via a tunnel all the way to the sea. Slaves were imprisoned in one of the larger chambers where they could be protected before they walked all the way to the water where they were loaded into ships. The tunnel has been destroyed by the Kenya government, and the cave is now used by the local traditional healer for blessings and making sacrifices. 

As we waited for the Watamu Snake Farm vehicle to come and pick us up we had some cold drinks and a snack. It was a great vexperience which I highly recomemnd – catching the little green snake was a highlight for me!!