Safari adventurers visit their destination with different expectations. Unfortunately, in the early evolution of this awe inspiring industry, the term Big Five was used to draw safari enthusiasts to the bush.
This term refers to the “Five Most Dangerous Animals you can hunt on foot” and, as you can imagine, it is not palatable to most conservationists.
There are so many other stunning creatures, in addition to the proverbial Big Five, that are an incredible privilege to experience and this black mamba (dendroaspis poiylepis), Africa’s largest venomous snake, is one of them.
There are so many facts and so much fiction about this animal it becomes quite difficult to reconcile the two.
1) The coffin shaped head… well, that one you can figure out.
2) Speed over the ground; Usually one kph less that the average person can run!! (actually only about 15 kilometers per hour for a short distance). This is subjective as there have been no black mamba races nor any volunteers to do testing. A provoked black mamba was measured at about 10km per hour in 1906 in Kenya.
They normally go their fastest while trying to escape from humans, rather than chasing them!
3) They are subject to quite heavy predation (snake eagles, mongooses and occasionally Cape File snakes)
4) The ‘black’ part is the inside of their mouth, as they tend to be a brown/metal grey colour.
5) They will rarely strike/bite a human (most times when handling them or when they feel threatened) but if they do, it will be repeatedly and they will envenomate when they can.
6) They are very skittish and the display they put on if confronted is generally remembered forever. They flatten their necks while rising off the ground and audibly hiss while flicking their tongue. They will generally not let a human approach within 40 meters (We are a walking destination, but not for getting close to mambas).
7) Their tongues are absolutely fascinating as can be seen in the picture above.