Tourists to South Africa should never attempt to pick up or handle any snakes on their own. South Africa hosts numerous snake parks which provide visitors with the opportunity to handle non-venomous snakes.
There are some 2 500 snake species around the world, and around 120 are native to South Africa. It is to your benefit to know something about the snakes of South Africa and be able to identify the more venomous ones, simply because it can make all the difference in a life and death situation. South African snakes are found on many different types of terrain which will often determine how they move. Some of them may slither in a side-to-side movement while others may advance in a straight line.
Most snakes are not venomous, but bites from certain poisonous snakes may cause permanent injuries to the affected part. There may even be loss of life. Adder venom, for instance, is toxic to blood vessels and left untreated may cause death. Cobra and Mamba venom is toxic to the nervous system, and someone with this kind of bite may experience slurred speech, dizziness and difficulty breathing. The best course of action is to get to a hospital as quickly as possible and provide the medical personnel with information about the snake even as you are driving there so that they can obtain the correct anti-venom.
About 138 species of snake can be found in Southern Africa and about 35 of those species are venomous. Only eight are highly venomous, which include the puff adder, Egyptian cobra and both the black and green mamba.
At a snake park, the snake expert may display the teeth of the snake. Snakes that are regarded as harmless have a solid row of teeth, while snakes that are regarded as harmful to humans will also have a set of fangs found toward the back of their top row of teeth.
Some people are inclined to believe that the color of the snake will reveal whether or not it is poisonous, regarding multi-colored snakes as more poisonous. This is, however, an unreliable method. The venomous puff adder, for example, has black, brown and tan diamond patterns while the black mamba is a simple, dark gray color. A better way to judge a snake is by the size of its head and its scale appearance.
When spotting a snake, take note of its color, length, the shape of its head and its posture. Take notice of how a snake reacts to you - if the snake rears up like a cobra and flattens its neck, then you know that its intention is to strike. If the snakes slithers away, rather leave it in peace.
South Africa has wonderful snake parks that provide visitors with the opportunity to observe many of the country's snakes up-close. You may even get the opportunity to handle some of the non-venomous snakes.
Croc River Enviro Park
Croc River Enviro Park is located in Nelspruit and offers many attractions like turtle, crocodile and fish ponds, an auditorium with modern audiovisual facilities and a Desert House where a desert-like environment has been synthesized.
Pure Venom Reptile Farm
Pure Venom Reptile Farm is one of the largest Reptile Parks in South Africa and is open 7 days a week from 9am-5pm. It is situated inland from Shelley Beach in KwaZulu-Natal.
Hartebeespoort Dam Snake and Animal Park
Visitors can look forward to seeing snake handling and demonstrations which are performed on Sundays and public holidays at 12:00 and 15:00.
Khamai Reptile Park
The main objective of this park is for conservation, breeding and learning more about reptiles. It allows visitors to enjoy a closer look at snakes and learn about what makes them tick.
Fritzsimons Snake Park
Located in KwaZulu-Natal on Durban's Golden Mile, Fritzsimons is South Africa’s oldest snake park. It is great for observing snakes, and the facilities are also used to collect venom to produce anti-snake bite serum.