Close Encounters of the Snake Kind

June 29, 2010

My arrival home after a night out at a restaurant involves a simple and familiar ritual – a ride back to my villa down a small street and into an even smaller lane. Then I wheel the bike into a tight turn to face my villa, put the bike on the stand and walk two steps in the dark to unlock the gate – more by feel than by sight. That’s because as soon as my bike is on its stand, the engine stops and the lights go out. Last night’s ritual was a little … different.

As I kill the engine, I catch a fleeting glimpse of something moving on the ground in front of the gate. Must be one of the local rodents, I think, or a frog cavorting in the lane – but something about the quality of the movement doesn’t seem right.

So, curious, I fire up the bike again. The lights flash on – and there, right where I usually stand while fumbling in the dark with the gate lock, is a snake. Its body is fairly thick, and it’s perhaps 1.2 metres long. The skin is pale brownish-green with slightly darker markings which glisten wetly as its scales catch the light. I don’t mind snakes, as long as they are at a respectable distance. This one isn’t – it is less than a metre in front of me, moving from left to right, but not making a great deal of progress. My lane is paved, but has a light sprinkling of fine gravel preventing good purchase for belly scales. The reptile in question is making all the right sinuous movements, but not unlike governments, its efforts don’t produce much forward motion.

I am thinking that if I was that snake, I would be getting a little peeved by now. Oh no! What if  it gets the same idea – that turning might be a better proposition than continuing its slow progress forward? If it turns left, it will go under my gate and into the villa. Not good, I muse. But if it turns right, then I will have an annoyed snake slithering over my sandalled feet. By sheer force of will, I telepathically encourage the thing to keep going. Luckily, it does, and I watch as it struggles another two metres, gives up, and turns left into the neighbouring villa. Whew!

I scan the surroundings. Does it have companions? A change to my usual villa entry strategy is called for here, so I unlock the gate by bringing the bike right up to it, then stand on the foot-board while riding forward and sliding the gate open. Awkward, but effective, because my feet stay off the ground. I mean, I do contain some testosterone, which means I’m really brave and stuff – but what if it came back? What if I was bitten? Who would feed the dog? It’s a cool Bali night, but I sweat a little.

I suddenly recall a friend in Seminyak telling me that she was woken by her dog barking in the second floor bedroom. On turning on the light, she discovered that a large snake had fallen out of her roof and was wriggling on the floor. It apparently took some fancy moves with a long-handled garden hoe (that she just happened to have on her balcony) to dispose of the beast. She left for Spain shortly afterwards, where uninvited snakes presumably stay out of the boudoir.

So I spend the next hour in the villa cautiously scrutinising every possible hiding place – just to be sure, you understand. And yes, I did check the ceiling of my bedroom very carefully. I also checked all the rooms and wardrobes, kitchen cabinets, pantries, storage areas, and balconies. You never know what might be in there.

The rest of the night I spend with Uncle Google, who informs me that Bali has quite a few snakes, many of them venomous. I discover that beautiful Bali is home to King Cobras, Black Spitting Cobras, Malayan Kraits, Banded Kraits, Malayan Pit Vipers, Green Pit Vipers, Blue Temple Vipers, Oriental Whip Snakes and Coral Snakes. And they are just the dangerous ones. The ones that aren’t venomous, like the pythons, make up for it by being astonishingly huge. I recently saw one about ten metres long in Batu Belig – probably a Reticulated Python. One report from Curugsewu in Java claimed that villagers there caught a specimen that was 15 metres long and weighed 450 kilograms.

It is not reassuring bedtime reading, particularly after a seeing a photograph which looks very much like the snake I saw earlier. The caption reads: Baby King Cobra. Oh Lord …
I check the distribution of snakes in Bali, and find the answer: “Anywhere where there is vegetation, water, rats & frogs.” Oh great. That narrows it down.

I go to bed, but first check under the bed and behind all the bedroom furniture. I even whip back the bed-covers, which might seem a little paranoid. But don’t tell me you wouldn’t have done the same thing. I sleep, but to my relief, don’t dream of snakes. But I think that, like snakes themselves, my future snake dream will manifest itself when I least expect it.



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  2. From that night on, for the next 3 or 4 months until I left… I always looked out for snakes… in the kitchen, upstairs downstairs. Everywhere. the feeling didnt pass… but at least yours was outside

    so far…. 😉

    Only saw one again and funnily enough it was just inside my front gate too… big greyish brown one in broad daylight.

    Don’t let me freak you, but Cobras, if yours was one, tend to have “clutches” ie little nests, a group, ….. more than one

    My friend Anders (you;ll see him on my facebook) has had a cobra/s in his house for the last 8 weeks, keeps bumping into it (living room, bathroom, discarded skin in his store room…. even snake poop) but snake guys cant find it….. now that would make it hard to sleep!

    • Oh Geez, why do I not feel reassured. Cobra clutches, eh?
      I think (hopefully) the sighting was because the ‘river’ AKA Bali’s Main Drain was so full it was nearly at the top of its banks and all of the normal snake habitat along the river was submerged.
      Whatever the reason, I’m keeping on high alert now for anything that wriggles …

      • ok hello you people but omg trust me don’t be freaked out snaks are more scared of u then u are of them im only 12 and i’ve seen about 5 snaks at my house i tell my familly to stay on high stares and i grab the snaks head u have to practice befor doing that only to nonvenomous snaks of course but if u can’t do that then but a plastic bag on the floor wide open get a stick to annoy the snak and get it into the bag bring it somewhere far don’t attened to kill it and the job is done or just scared it in the garden and block all enterance and the snak will leave !!!! BALI IS A WONDERFUL PLACE it is exotic soo yes there are reptiles and little bugs but thats the beauty of it anyways everyone stay saff and happy

        love axelle ❤

  3. Vyt, just try to pour salt around ur home. That can make them go away frm ur home. ( that was a myth, but that works )

    • I’m happy to try anything that works – and long as it keeps them away! 😉

  4. “and turns left into the neighbouring villa. Whew!”

    Vyt, did you warn them?

    • Neighbour’s villa is currently undergoing renovation, so unoccupied. However, the workers arrived next morning at 8.30am, so I gave them a standard ‘Awas – ularrrrrrr’ heads up.
      I was told by Hector at the Bali Times that the number of times you trill the ‘r’ in ular denotes the fear in which it is held, and therefore how poisonous the thing is … 😉

      • Scary… I’d keep one of those snake bite compression bandages around, could come in handy!

        Oh, and Vyt, another thing to watch out for when making your way home from a meal in Bali. Film maker Lorne Blair is said to have been returning home from a meal in Kuta one evening, when he fell into a drain, an unrepaired hole in the footpath. He later died in a Bali hospital.

  5. sometimes it is happen snakes on our house

  6. I just can say wow

  7. I am petrified of snakes. I hate snakes. I should never have read this, as this blog just cost me money!!! haha I have told my partner to go buy salt and a large broom to get rid of any possible future snakes.. Tonight shall be a very sleepless night, Thanks borborigmus!

    • You are welcome 😉 Fortunately, snakes are more afraid of humans than we are of them, and they will rarely attack. Just don’t stand on one though, as they get a little tetchy …

      • haha I try avoid all reptiles at all costs. That salt thing HAS to be working.. no snakes last night… What area do you live in?

      • That salt thing is really good for elephants too. Betcha you didn’t see a single elephant last night either …
        I’m in Legian – not an area normally noted for snakes, except maybe by the ‘river’, where I live.

  8. Hello everyone,
    I have just returned from a vacation in Bali. My husband and I stayed in the mountains in a wonderful health resort. However when I was showering the other evening, I looked down to see a three foot banded krait looking up at me. It was black and white and quite pretty looking for a snake. Needless to say, I made a rapid exit from the bathroom and blocked under the door with towels. The next morning the snake seemed to have gone. Trapped in the other room with us was a tiny frog. I believe he was the cause of the problem by attracting my scaly visitor. He’s a lucky little fellow for not getting eaten and I am fortunate I did not step backwards in the shower and step on the snake. I still shudder.

    • Kraits are not the most pleasant guests to have in a bathroom! You were lucky!

      • Yes, gave me quite a shock. Beautiful specimen but rather it hadn’t come into our accomodation. I think I was extremely lucky. I believe it was a bungara bungara. I have searched online and that is the only snake I have found that looks like the one I saw.

  9. You are really good!! No snakes in Spain, funny!
    My old friend living in a house in northern spain was bitten by a MAMBA IN HIS OWN BATHROOM!! And nearly died.
    He went to the bathroom in the middle of the night to p..e and sat down for the purpous. (well educated guy) a snake was hidden in hit wife bathrope which hang beside the toilett and the snake bit him from the armpit, his wife found him on the bathroom floor next morning, ambullance ect.
    In hospital (of course) they did’t know what was wrong, and he was only safed by a nurse which had worked in South Africa, and she looked after a snakebite and found it. They mesured the distance between the fangs and found out that it only could have been a mamba.
    The police found out later that some illigal snake dealer had ordered 3 mambas from SA and only sold 2, the rest he had put in a ditch in Spain. The police put outmeal along the front door and saw tracks next day OUT of the house, so now you can wonder: where in Spain do you want to travel next time.
    The doctors said that the fact of a cold tile floor in the bathroom and his total imotioness had saved his life.
    Next time Bali again!

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