“Stop!” I called upon sighting a snake crossing the dirt road ahead of us. Out I hopped, camera in hand to see what it was. The shape of this sinuous creature indicated that it was definitely a cobra. The first Cape Cobra I ever saw was a rich yellow colour, which is why I did not recognise this one at first. To business: photograph it to identify later if necessary and then admire it a little before resuming our journey. Cape Cobras can actually vary in colour from the yellow I have fixed in my mind to copper, various shades of brown, and even black. They can also be speckled with shades of brown and orange. Actually … as Luke has so kindly pointed out below, this is not a Cape Cobra but a Rinkhals (Hemachatus haemachatus). He points out the scales on this snake are keeled (have a ridge down each scale) whereas cobras have smooth scales.

I made sure to stand well behind the snake as I watched it cross the road. The tighter curves seemed to indicate that it was not particularly pleased with my presence. It also lifted its head slightly and began to spread its neck into a broader ‘hood’, which are typical warning signs.

You will forgive me for not waiting around too long to get everything in focus, but this is was its broad hood looked like.

The snake expressed its displeasure by lifting its head off the ground. The warning signs were clear and I heeded them.

I let it continue on its way across the road, feeling delighted to have come across it so unexpectedly.



  1. You are indeed a lot more brave than many of us! Thank you for sharing this snake sighting with us. I haven’t ever (thankfully!) been close to one myself. I have always felt fearful of snakes and disinclined to try overcoming my fear.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I used to be terrified of snakes – my legs would turn to jelly whenever I saw one – until in Standard 8 a boy gave me a snake to hold. I thought at first that it was a plastic snake and when I realised it wasn’t, I was not going to give him the satisfaction of dropping it with a yell. His disappointment was worth the effort 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. WOW!!! Super impressive creature. I was in a blind in Kruger with a boom-slang. A photographer says to me’ “this isn’t worth it to me,” as he packs up his gear and leaves, and my hubby says “there is this beautiful green lizard or frog behind us.” I was watching the hippos and paid no attention. When I was done, I looked at the frog. “It was a boom slang.” I was terrified of snakes too, until my son studied rattlesnakes in grad school and we drove them when the research was done and set them free. I learned most snakes are scared of us and will try and leave, but that boom-slang did not. Your cobra was definitely heading out of Dodge. Amazing presence of mind in getting the shots.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for this anecdote, Cindy. We were sitting at a picnic table in the Addo Elephant National Park some time ago when I noticed the change in behaviour of the birds around us, looked up and saw a Boomslang threading its way through the slatted roof above us. Our companions scattered, while I stood on the table to photograph it 🙂 You are right about snakes not deliberately attacking people – it is we who should be more cautious and respectful towards them!


  3. I respect snakes but I think I would have stayed in the car even though I know it would be doing its best to get away!
    However, we did once see a Cape cobra (the more familiar yellow colour) up in a tree raiding a large colony of sociable weavers’ nests (in the Transfrontier Kalahari Park) while walking around the camp. The snake was very aware of us on the ground and kind of dangled down to watch us, which looked rather like a warning to me, not that I needed that to keep my distance!


  4. Lovely images.
    This is a Rinkhals (Hemachatus haemachatus). You’ll notice the scales are keeled (have a ridge down each scale) whereas cobras have smooth scales. Rinkhals in much of the southern parts of their range are banded like this with the darker head. These guys can spit.


    • Thank you very much for correcting the ID of this snake and for pointing out the clear difference between the scales of the Cape Cobra and the Rinkhals. I will correct this 🙂


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