Durban - “It’s an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
So said Durban snake expert Nick Evans on Friday of the remarkable pictures of two green mambas mating that were posted on the Facebook page Snakes of South Africa this week.
Payge Tanner spent the entire afternoon on Tuesday photographing the two massive mambas in her garden in Sodwana Bay.
“It’s an exciting garden,” says Tanner. “It started off as coastal forest so it’s very wild. There are lots of creatures in this garden.”
Tanner, a dive instructor and skipper, who runs a tourist shop in Sodwana, said: “I was going to the vegetable garden with the dog when I heard a rustling in the long grass. I distracted the boerbul and pulled him inside. Then I saw the mambas going up into the tree.
“Around here anything green is called a green mamba, but it’s usually a bush snake. But these were not your normal Natal greens. They were about 2.5m long with a girth wider than my fingers and thumbs.”
She and domestic worker, Bongi Zikhali, spent the rest of the afternoon watching the two snakes.
“I ran for my camera. They went from tree to tree stretched with their heads at each end, the one leading the way, the other following backwards. At one point they broke up and reunited in the next tree,” said Tanner, adding that she never felt scared of the mambas, even though at one point she stood a mere 2m away.
“They were very unthreatening, docile. They looked at me, but they were so disinterested in me and they didn’t show any aggression.”
Having spent many years in Sodwana Bay, Tanner overcame any fear of snakes and had become “an amateur snake follower” after facing “quite a few cobras, boomslangs and hundreds of vine snakes. Only once before had I seen a green mamba, about 10 years ago,” she said.
The next morning, only the female snake remained in the tree.
Durban’s snake catcher, Evans, from KZN Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, spoke to The Independent on Saturday while trying to catch a black mamba in Clare Estate on Friday.
He described Tanner as “one lucky, lucky lady".
“Sightings of green mambas are rare as the snake is restricted to the coast. They largely live in coastal forests and with development along our coastline, numbers are dwindling,” he said, adding that it’s mating season from April to June, unlike most snakes which mate in spring.