There is a very interesting snake park outside Mikumi National Park, called the Genesis snake park. It houses several highly deadly snakes (and other reptiles) and some questionable enclosures that don’t appear entirely secure.
We received the royal treatment when we visited, a stopover on our long road trip. A friendly Tanzanian man with a smart, buttoned shirt and the smallest neck tie I had ever seen greeted us and took us for a personal tour.
A guided tour of the snake park
As the only visitors on the day, we were treated to a guided tour, and were happily introduced to all of the snakes on display. For some specimens, he was happy to remove the snakes from their enclosures, and let us hold them.
There were about a dozen enclosures altogether, some with poisonous snakes inside. The enclosures didn’t look entirely safe, as pieces of the wooden doors looked to be splitting, or had gaps where the door didn’t fit properly. Nevertheless, the snakes were all in the correct place, so we assumed everything was well locked down!
A real treat – a black mamba
One enclosure contained a black mamba, one of the most venomous snakes in the world. It stared at us when we approached the glass. Our guide explained how the black mamba attacks.
When threatened, this massive snake (which can grow up to 3 metres, or almost 10 feet) lurches upright, standing as tall as a man, and exposes a terrifying mouth which is ink black. Strikes come repeatedly at the head, delivering a neurotoxin which can induce symptoms after ten minutes. Death could take less than twenty minutes.
That was impressive, but we were anxious to move away from the enclosure after hearing that story. It was still looking at us.
The eastern green mamba
There was a group of beautiful eastern green mambas in one enclosure, piled upon each other in brightly coloured ribbons. They are green along the top, with faint yellow underbellies, and can measure up to 2 metres (6.6 feet) in length.
They’re venomous too, and although they usually just ambush rodents, birds, bats and eggs, they have a neurotoxin which can cause respiratory paralysis, convulsions, difficulty breathing and swallowing, and even death in rare cases.
African rock python
A colossal rock python waited in the next enclosure, Africa’s largest snake, scrunched up in a giant muscular coil. It can grow up to a stunning 6 metres (20 feet), although this southern African variety is generally smaller than the northern variety.
The guide offered to bring out this non-venomous snake so we could hold it, but it appeared to be sleeping, so he left it alone. It has been known to constrict antelope and even crocodiles for meals, but rarely attacks humans.
Purple crocodile medicine
Several crocodiles called the Genesis Snake Park home, and a large specimen was lounging around in a high-walled enclosure, waiting for the sun to hit.
In a separate enclosure, a sick crocodile was resting with purple medicine oozing out of its mouth. It seemed to have been quarantined. It had a concrete pool for basking, although not much space to walk around.
The guide, proving that it was still alive, prodded it with a stick and it hissed angrily. It did not appear very amused by its condition.
Tortoises, and other snakes
There were several other reptiles to see at Genesis Snake Park. A group of small tortoises scrabbled around in a shallow enclosure, or curled up against the side. With the guide’s permission, he invited us to pick one up to see how heavy they feel. (The answer – pretty damn heavy).
As we wandered past the other snake enclosures, we spotted a gigantic cobra, and other smaller black snakes, which our guide briefly introduced.
There was a very relaxed, hands-on feeling towards handling reptiles here, which makes for a great, interactive experience. It’s not a bad stop for road trippers or people visiting the national park, and the visit would take not much more than half an hour.
How to find Genesis Snake Park, Mikumi
Genesis Hotel and Snake Park is easy to find for anyone travelling to Mikumi National Park, as it lies right on the highway. Driving south west down the A7 highway, exit out of the national park. Genesis is found amidst a cluster of other safari lodges, such as the Matembezi Safari Lodge and the Mikumi Resort.