It would be impossible to feature all South Africa’s snakes in this guide as there are said to be 171 snake species found here; and luckily only a small percentage of these are venomous.

If you do spot a snake, it will usually be one of the following:

African Rock Python

(Python sebae)

  • African rock pythons are generally brown with lighter brown and olive green markings.
  • Belly is creamy white in colour.
  • The African rock python is one of the world’s largest snakes; reaching lengths 6 metres or more.
  • Upper and lower jaw bones are not attached so they are able to open these incredibly wide.
  • They have no breastbone so can expand their ribs allowing them to swallow food sources much larger than themselves.
  • Pythons are ‘constrictors’ which mean they hold their prey with their teeth and then constrict them until they are unable to breathe and their heart then stops. They then proceed to swallow the prey head-first, whole.

Black Mamba

(Dendroaspis polylepis)

  • Black mambas have two enlarged venom fangs fixed to the front of the mouth.
  • Solid teeth in both jaws.
  • Adult Black mambas reach an average of 2.5 meters and a maximum of 4.5 meters in length.
  • These snakes are grey to olive in colour with lighter scales round their head.
  • They take their name from the black colouring inside their mouths.
  • Black mambas are thin and extremely agile.


(Dispholidus typus)

  • Solid teeth in both jaws with venom fangs in rear part of upper jaw.
  • Average length is 1.2 metres but can exceed 1.8 meters.
  • Has a short, blunt nose & large prominent eyes with a pear shaped pupil.
  • Boomslang have keeled scales.
  • Females usually retain a brown colour.
  • Males colouring is highly variable ranging from black to bright green.
  • Belly is light green.
  • Often confused with the Green mamba (Dendroaspis augusticeps)

Egg Eating Snake

(Dasypelits scabra)

  • The few teeth the egg-eating snake has are solid and harmless.
  • No fangs.
  • Wide variation in pattern and colour; ranging from browns and greens to solid dark grey.
  • V-shaped dark mark on neck; the top of which points to the snout.
  • Fairly slender snake with small head that is rounded at the snout.
  • The belly of the egg-eating snake is usually cream in brown coloured snakes and white in grey ones.
  • Size ranges from 0.5metres to 1.5metres in length.
  • Often confused with the Night Adder (Causus rhombeatus).

Cape Cobra

(Naja nivea)

  • two enlarged venom fangs fixed in the front of the mouth.
  • Solid teeth in both jaws.
  • Egyption cobras are dark grey-brown in colour, developing to almost black as they get older.
  • Across the neck is a broad black band.
  • Young snakes are a sandy-yellow colour with a black band on the neck.
  • The main physical characteristic of the black mamba is the head and the hood. Their head is large and depressed with a broad snout. Necks can be as much as 18cms wide.
  • Eyes are large with a round pupil.
  • Males larger than females; average size 1.5 to 2 metres in length.

Gaboon Viper

(Bitis gabonica)

  • The Gaboon Viper is the largest viper in Africa, reaching lengths of up to 1.8 metres and weighing more than 20kgs in some instances.
  • Large triangular head tapers into a narrow neck.
  • A pair of ‘horns’ are located between their raised nostrils.
  • The gaboon viper has a distinctive brown stripe on its pale head.
  • Body colour is pale with brown, beige and yellow markings allowing for easy camouflage.

Green Mamba

(Dendroaspis angusticeps)

  • Two enlarged venom fangs fixed to the front of the mouth.
  • Solid teeth in both jaws.
  • Green mambas are the smallest of the species reaching an average of 1.5 metres in length.
  • They are glossy green in colour with a lighter, bright greenish-yellow belly.
  • Green mambas are thin, elegant snakes with a very distinctive head and long thin tail.
  • They have small eyes, smooth scales and a long rectangular head.
  • Often confused with the Boomslang (Dispholidus typus).

Puff Adder

(Bitis arietans)

  • Two enlarged hinged venom fangs in the front of the upper jaw.
  • Solid teeth in both jaws.
  • The average size of a puff adder is approximately 1m in length, and fairly thick in width.
  • Head is blunt & rounded and much wider than neck and body; almost triangular in shape.
  • Colours  of puff adders vary according to geography, but their head usually has two dark bands; one on the crown and one between the eyes.
  • Colours range from dull yellow to light brown and even orange or reddish brown. Male puff adders can have striking yellow and gold colour patterns.
  • Chevron markings are present all the way down their back and getting lighter towards the tail.
  • Iris’ range from gold to silver grey.
  • The stomach of puff adders are yellow or white with some darker spots.

Snouted Cobra

(Naja annulifera)

  • Two enlarged venom fangs fixed in the front of the mouth.
  • Solid teeth in both jaws.
  • Typically yellowish to olive brown but can be brown or dark brown.
  • The belly of the snouted cobra usually yellowish.
  • Normally has a darker band of colour round the neck.
  • Average length of adults between 1.5 and 2 metres but can reach lengths of 3 metres!
  • Body is cylindrical and stout with a long tail.
  • Male snouted cobras are larger than females.
  • Often confused with the Eqyptian Cobra (Naja haje).

Night Adder

(Causus rhombeatus)

  • Head has a dark brown or black V-shaped mark, the top of which points forward and finishes between the eyes.
  • The colouring of the night adder varies from light browny-pink to light grey.
  • Diamond shaped darker markings are found on the back and tail – these are sometimes bordered with white.
  • Adults average about 0.5metres in length and seldom exceed 1 metre.
  • Body is cylindrical and reasonably slender.
  • Venom glands are extremely long – up to 10cms – and found on either side of the spine connecting up to the fangs.
  • The night adder has poor eye sight and a keen sense of smell.
  • Night adders are often confused with egg eating snakes (Dasypeltis).


(Hemachatus hemachatus)

  • Colours do vary; the Rinkhals is generally brown to browny-black on the top with irregular spotting/banding in lighter browns or creams.
  • Distinctive dark belly with two lighter stripes/bands round the neck.
  • Adults reach an average of 90cms to 120cms but have been known to reach 150cms in length.
  • The Rinkhals is not a true ‘spitter’, but can spray its venom up 2.5m by a flinging action of the head and upper body.
  • Short, pointed head with large black eyes.

Vine Snake

(Thelotornis capensis)

  • Colouring is similar to that of a vine; grey-brown with lighter markings.
  • The  vine snake is very long and thin, averaging 1 metre in length.
  • Their head is elongated, with large eyes and horizontal pupils.