South Africa finale

by Jason Rothmeyer on Dec 12, 2013

I had 1 full day left in the KwaZulu-Natal region of South Africa and I was determined to make it a good one. We started out the day checking out the snake collection of the lodge’s owner, Anton. I’m not much of a “keeper” myself as I really enjoy finding things in the wild and don’t keep pets, but his collection is amazing. He uses it to be informative and it’s sort of a defacto zoo at his lodge. He’s got some amazing animals but nothing is better than his Gaboon Adders. We hiked and hiked trying to find these in the wild but came up short. Truth be told, we could have walked by 50 of them without knowing it. Look at how good their camo is…unmatched in my opinion for large snakes.
Gaboon Adder (Bitis gabonica)
They also have the largest fangs of any venomous snake in the world. So you REALLY don’t want to get tagged by one of these bad boys.
Gaboon Adder (Bitis gabonica)

Here’s their enclosure inside his garage
Gaboon Adders (Bitis gabonica)

Above the garage is an awning that hosts a resident Rock Monitor (not pet, he just posted up here). He squeezes his body in between the wood each day. Someday he’ll get too big and won’t fit I imagine.
Rock Monitor (Varanus albigularis)
Here’s another shot of the same resident Chameleon that lives on the grounds of the lodge. It truly was amazing how difficult it was to find him during the day. We knew exactly which small tree he lived it, yet took us about 10 minutes to find him.
Flap-necked Chameleon (Chamaeleo dilepis)

We set out to explore a neighbors farmland that hosted a few resident snake species we were trying to find. On the way a very large, adult Rock Monitor crossed the road in front of us. I slammed on the brakes and my buddy Nick tried in vain to catch it. Luckily it scurried up a tree so that I could shoot photos of it. This thing would have thrashed him had he caught it though. Check out those claws!
Rock Monitor (Varanus albigularis)

One thing this farmland has is a very large resident Rock Python. The owner said it’s about 5+ meters long, so a solid 18+ feet! Big enough to do some serious damage to you if you found it. Nick went inside it’s den trying to see it. I WAS NOT sticking my head inside there.
Nick exploring a Rock Python den
They have seriously bad-ass rides in South Africa. These pickup trucks are the norm and kill it.
Sick South African ride

Rock Python shed from the den…
Lacey with Rock Python shed
We also went to try to find their resident Black Mamba that lives out there. They see it sunning itself regularly but we only found it’s shed also. Mamba’s are notorious for being pretty deadly bites.
Black Mamba shed

I shot photos of the sun going down looking out towards Swaziland as we waited for dark and our last road cruising mission for snakes.
Umkhumbi Sunset

Temps were perfect that night so we had really high hopes to find lots of snakes. We drove from 6pm-1am and put in a lot of km’s on the car.
First find was another Chameleon. A little far away to get a good shot but cool nonetheless
Flap-necked Chameleon (Chamaeleo dilepis)

We did find another Rhombic Egg Eater. This one was full size unlike the other small one we found
Rhombic Egg Eater (Dasypeltis scabra)
Rhombic Egg Eater (Dasypeltis scabra)

These Brown House Snakes are too cool looking. Very similar to Rosy Boas here in California with their calm attitude.
Brown House Snake (Boaedon capensis )
This frog was found back at the lodge inside the bathroom. You always need to be on the lookout for animals when at places like this.
Greater Leaf-folding Frog (Afrixalus fornasinii)

Unfortunately it was my last day and I had to fly out to Kimberley, South Africa to go judge the big Kimberley Diamond Cup skate contest (work…but really fun work). While showering and getting ready to roll back to Durban to fly out, something fell onto my head in the shower and then into the water. I assumed it was one of the many frogs or toads we had seen but when I picked it up, it was a very large Velvet Gecko. My shower must have ruined his good grasp of the ceiling and he lost his grip. I quickly dried off and dressed with 1 hand so I didn’t lose him and proceeded to shoot photos of him outside.
Wahlberg's Velvet Gecko (Homopholis walbergii)
Gecko’s rule and have by far the best looking eyes in the animal world to me.
Wahlberg's Velvet Gecko (Homopholis walbergii)
I only got to spend 3 full days at the lodge but our contest will be happening in 2014 so I plan on returning for a few extra days if possible and finding more stuff. I still haven’t seen a wild leopard, lion and a few other things I would love to shoot photos of. Here’s to next year’s adventure! Next up for me…Costa Rica for my 4th visit there in March 2014.

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