Londolozi is famous for many things, but not, as far as I am aware, snakes. In fact, many guests specifically request NOT to see snakes, and I have yet to hear a herpetologist speak of the fabled “Snakes of Londolozi”. Yes, there are plenty of them here, but despite their undeserved reputation, they tend to stick to themselves and are seldom seen. But after two sightings in two days recently, that may all be about to change…
We had just finished up afternoon tea on the Granite Camp deck, when Kate Neill, (Camp Manager at Granite) called us to come and see an interesting encounter taking place in the camp garden. We were greeted by the sight of a Striped Bellied Sand Snake in the process of swallowing a Rainbow Skink. A relatively common snake in the area and extremely fast moving, it poses no danger to humans, although is mildly venomous-and this venom is enough to be lethal for the skink.
It was a fascinating to watch, and even those who were slightly apprehensive about getting so close to a snake, were huddled around the scene watching with interest.
On the following morning we decided to do a walk back to camp from game drive. On walking through Fluffy’s Clearing I heard the piercing call of a Blacksmith Lapwing. These birds nest on the ground, so any creature, including ourselves, get told in no uncertain terms that we are not welcome anywhere near the nest in case we either accidentally crush their eggs or, if we were a predator, eat them. However we soon noted that they weren’t concerned with us and had their attention focussed on something else.
On closer inspection, we found something which I certainly was not expecting. A Rhombic Egg Eater was in the process of swallowing one of the three lapwing eggs!
This snake eats only eggs, and has an amazing ability to stretch the elastic skin of it’s neck and jaws around seemingly impossibly large eggs, and this was no exception. The lining of the mouth has small, parallel ridges that are similar in structure to a human fingerprint that allow it to grip the shell better. It is in no way venomous but its coloration has evolved to mimic that of the Rhombic Night Adder (which is venomous) in order to deter potential predators, such as jackal or mongoose.
After watching it for some time, we decided to leave it in peace and continue on our walk. They have what are called “gulag” teeth, which are essentially pieces of bone which extend from the backbone into the throat. Once the egg went a little further down, these would have broken through the shell allowing the snake to swallow the contents and then regurgitate the eggshell.
Although a common snake, they are usually nocturnal and very rarely seen-a simple sighting would have been special, but the photos above depict a scene which is surely once in a lifetime. There are usually so many other “bigger” things competing for your attention on safari, particularly if you are a first time visitor. Witnessing scenes such as those above serve to remind us of the amazing diversity here, and of the sometimes less glamourous battles of life and death that take place all around us on a daily basis-all you need to do is look a little closer!
Photographed By Ryan And Jesse Kaltio (Londolozi Guests)
Written by David Dampier