Africa is famous for wildlife.
But snakes get a bit lost among Africa’s star attractions.
Lions, cheetahs, elephants, hippopotamuses, and others get all the attention.
But Africa has some pretty amazing snakes, too.
The biggest snakes in Africa count among the 5 largest snakes in the world.
And the deadliest count among the most venomous snakes on earth.
Keep reading for a closer look at the largest snakes in Africa. They also happen to be some of the most fascinating creatures in the continent.
Table of Contents
- 1 Biggest Snakes in Africa
- 1.1 Central African Rock Python (Python Sebae)
- 1.2 Southern African Rock Python (Python Natalensis)
- 1.3 Gaboon Viper (Bitis gabonica)
- 1.4 Black Mamba (Dendroaspis Polylepis)
- 1.5 Egyptian Cobra (Naja Haje)
- 1.6 East African Green Mamba (Dendroaspis Angusticeps)
- 1.7 Black Necked Spitting Cobra (Naja Nigricollis)
- 1.8 Boomslang (Dispholidus typus)
- 2 Largest Snakes In Africa: Final Thoughts
Biggest Snakes in Africa
The 8 snake species below are the largest in Africa. But size is not the only thing they have going for them. They have many fascinating characteristics and behaviors. Let’s take a look.
Central African Rock Python (Python Sebae)
The Central African rock python is considered the fourth biggest snake in the world. The average specimen weighs around 250 pounds (113 kg) and measures around 24 feet and 7 inches (7.5 m).
Central African rock pythons inhabit various habitats and are especially found near areas with permanent water sources. This includes swamps, lakes, and rivers in the savannas, grasslands, forests, or rocky desert areas in Central Africa.
African rock pythons can remain in water for long periods in wait for their prey. They are excellent swimmers. They do not have fangs and they do not envenomate their victims. Instead, they constrict them.
Their diet includes large rodents, monkeys, deer, crocodiles, and other animals that come to drink water near their habitats.
Southern African Rock Python (Python Natalensis)
Most Southern African Rock Python specimens weigh an average of 180 pounds (80 kg) and measure 19 feet and 8 inches (6 m). Thus, the South African rock Python is a lot smaller than the Central African rock python described above.
Its range includes southern Tanzania and further south. This nonvenomous python kills its prey by constriction.
Smaller rock pythons eat small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds. Larger ones can easily swallow entire antelopes, hogs, and crocodiles. These large meals take them months to digest.
Their biggest predators are humans, although hyenas, wild hogs, and crocodiles are also known to kill them.
Gaboon Viper (Bitis gabonica)
The Gaboon viper is Africa’s largest viper. The average gaboon viper weighs more than 45 pounds (20 kg) and measures over 6 feet (1.8 m). Its habitat includes the rainforests of Central, East, and West Africa.
The Gaboon viper’s head resembles a fallen leaf, while its body resembles a fallen branch. This helps it camouflage itself so it can easily strike at its unsuspecting prey.
Gaboon vipers are mainly terrestrial snakes that hide on leaf-strewn forest floors. They eat small mammals like rabbits, hares, and birds. They are capable of moving their heads at speeds of over 200 miles per hour (320 km/h) when they strike! Even a fast hare is no match for this speed.
Gaboon vipers are generally shy and rarely bite humans. However, they are venomous snakes and their bites need prompt medical treatment. Worry not: they usually give a warning hiss before striking. They are also mostly nocturnal and come out to hunt only after sundown.
Black Mamba (Dendroaspis Polylepis)
Black mambas grow up to 14 feet (4.3 m) in length and weigh around 3.5 pounds (1.6 kg). Their name is misleading since they are not black, but brown. They are native to the sub-Saharan regions of Africa.
Black mambas are poisonous snakes and their bites are ‘kisses of death’. A bitten human could die within 20 minutes of receiving a mamba’s bite. These fast-moving snakes also slither at speeds of 10 to 12 miles per hour (16.1 to 19.3 km/h). This has given them the reputation of being ferocious killers.
Unlike other snake species, black mambas are not nocturnal but diurnal. This means they spend most of their daylight hours basking in the sun or stalking their prey.
There are three other mamba species and some of them are arboreal, but not the black mamba. Black mambas sleep in covered lairs on the ground. They are carnivorous and mainly prey on birds, rodents, and small mammals.
It should go without saying that the black mamba is not suited as a pet. If you want a black snake for a pet, there are much better options, like the black rat snake or the Mexican black kingsnake.
Egyptian Cobra (Naja Haje)
The Egyptian cobra is one of the most common snakes found in Africa. The average specimen grows to 8 feet (2.4 meters) long. Not only is it one of Africa’s biggest snakes, but it is also one of the world’s most venomous ones. Their deadly bites have caused several human fatalities.
The carnivorous snake mainly eats toads, small mammals, birds, lizards, and their eggs. It lives in arid or semi-arid habitats in and around villages in North and West Africa, the Congo Basin, Kenya, and Tanzania.
The Egyptian cobra is the snake featured on the crowns of Egyptian kings. The ancient Egyptians also worshipped this snake as a symbol of the sun.
The Egyptian cobra is also known as the angry snake since it gets easily provoked. This makes it a favorite of snake charmers.
East African Green Mamba (Dendroaspis Angusticeps)
The East African green mamba is a large but slender snake that can grow up to nearly 5 feet (1.5 m) in length. Its large size, deadly venom, and aggressive nature make it one of the deadliest snakes in Africa.
East African green mambas are fast snakes capable of slithering at speeds of 7 mph (11.3 km/h). They are stunningly beautiful snakes with bright green or turquoise coloring.
They are mostly shy and prefer hiding instead of biting. However, if they do choose to bite, they could kill a human being within 30 minutes.
East African green mambas are arboreal and only come out of the trees to bask in the sun. They mainly prey on small birds, mammals, bird eggs, lizards, and small bats.
Black Necked Spitting Cobra (Naja Nigricollis)
The Naja nigricollis, or black-necked spitting cobra, grows up to 4 to 7 feet (1.2 – 2.1 m). There are very few known species of spitting cobras and the black-necked spitting cobra is one of them.
The other prominent ones are the Mozambique spitting cobra, the black spitting cobra, and the rinkhals (also known as the ring-necked spitting cobra).
The African black-necked spitting cobra is mainly found in the sub-Saharan region. It has a characteristic black band on its neck region.
It can squirt its venom up to 10 feet in the air. The toxin in its venom can cause permanent blindness in humans if it gets into the eyes, as well as paralysis, skin inflammation, and blisters.
Black-necked spitting cobras are mostly nocturnal. They mainly eat small mammals, rodents, amphibians, and other small snakes.
Boomslang (Dispholidus typus)
The African Boomslang snake grows over 6 feet in length (1.8 meters). The word ‘boomslang’ is Afrikaans for ‘tree snake’.
The African boomslang is a semi-arboreal snake that mainly lives in the bushes and trees of the sub-Saharan region. It sometimes comes to the ground to bask in the sun or search for prey.
Boomslangs are green or brown and this coloration helps camouflage them as they curl around branches. They mainly prey on birds and their eggs, bats, lizards, and other tree-dwelling mammals.
Boomslangs are venomous snakes and their bites can cause death in humans, in the absence of prompt medical treatment.
Largest Snakes In Africa: Final Thoughts
Africa is home to a mesmerizing array of some of the world’s largest and most intriguing snakes.
From the powerful constrictors like the Central African Rock Python and the Southern African Rock Python, to the deadly venomous Black Mamba and the stealthy Gaboon Viper, these snakes play a vital role in the continent’s rich and diverse ecosystems.
As we continue to explore and understand these fascinating creatures, it is essential to appreciate their significance and ensure their conservation. Both to maintain the delicate balance in the natural ecosystem and for future generations to marvel at.