There are a number of tented lodges in Namibia that give guests the experience of camping, but on a more luxurious scale, with proper beds and usually a nice bathroom attached to the tented room. Whist we were camping at Shamvura, in the Caprivi in northern Namibia, guests in one of these luxury tents heard a thud on the roof and when they went out to investigate, found that a Twig, or Southern Vine snake had dropped onto the canvas from the tree above. This obviously caused great excitement!
Twig snakes are rather beautiful with their distinctive markings, but they are not to be messed with as their venom is dangerous. Being haemotoxic, the venom can cause life-threatening symptoms (internal bleeding) for which there is no known antivenom and some fatalities have been recorded. Fortunately our host at Shamvura was an expert on snakes and was thus able to show us the snake in a safe manner. He explained that these snakes are usually quite timid unless disturbed, but they will inflate their necks and stiffen when they feel threatened.
There are two species of this snake in southern Africa – the Southern Vine snake that is found all the way from Kwazulu Natal in South Africa to northern Namibia and Botswana; and the Eastern Vine snake that mainly occurs in Mozambique and some areas north of the sub-region. The Eastern variety is different from its Southern counterpart in that it has a plain green head with speckled markings on its crown.
Vine snakes grow to a length of approximately 1.2 meters. Females lay clutches of up to eighteen eggs. Their diet consists mainly of lizards, chameleons, frogs and small mammals, snakes and birds. They are well camouflaged and are not easily detected as they remain motionless in trees or shrubs for long periods whilst waiting for prey.
We were pleased that we were given the opportunity to see one of these beautiful snakes up close, without having come upon one in more dangerous circumstances.