Snake Tourism. Yes, you read it right. Didn’t you hear of it before? Never mind, I will tell you about it today as it is a special day for them. 16th of July is considered World Snake Day and is observed to enhance awareness about snakes. Humans fear snake bites and that is why they tend to beat up and kill snakes when they find one. Snakes also have danger from poachers as their venom and meat are bio medically beneficial and their skin is economically valuable. For some snake meat is delicacy. Snakes need protection because they play a major part in maintaining the balance of nature. Fear and loathe are not what they deserve .
Snakes are Ancient and have Mythical Significance
Almost in every culture they are enormously significant in mythology, possessing mysterious and almost supernatural powers. Mythical stories from ancient Greece, Egypt, Rome, India, Mexico, Sumeria, Babylon and pre Islamic Middle East are good examples. In India Lord Shiva as well as Lord Vishnu, the two most important pillars of the Hindu religion have close associations with snakes. Hence ‘Nag Panchami’ is celebrated by worshipping snakes (idols) to show them respect. In Italy Annual Snake Festival takes place where a parade takes place with the patron saint’s wooden statue adorned with real snakes. As early as 170 million years ago, snakes slithered alongside dinosaurs and fossils from that era have been discovered. Today people other than herpetologists (reptile and amphibian specialists) also take interest in snakes. Snake Tourism and herping trips are slowly gaining popularity.
Snake Tourism in India:
Herping Tours in Munnar, Kerala
May to October is the season for herping tours in Munnar. Kerala Forest Department approved snake rescuers are at the core of developing snake tourism here. This is a tremendous effort in increasing awareness and conservationist attitude towards these animals. Earlier we found foreign tourists interested in herping tours but today the trend is picking up among Indians too. Tourists taking special interest in photography are keen on these tours. The sharp Green pit Vipers, resplendent shrub frogs and unique lizards are often found on the trail. Photographers are enthralled by numerous other rare species of snakes and frogs. Galaxy Frog, declared flagship species for conservation, was discovered on one such trail. Frog catching in the marshy fields of Kerala was common before 1972’s strict Wildlife Protection Act preventing catching, killing and exporting frogs for meat consumption.
Snake Tourism In Odisha (Orissa)
Simlipal National Park consists of deciduous palm trees, 12 rivers and 2 huge waterfalls. These water bodies are home to numerous species of snakes. The unique monocled cobra is found besides common Indian Cobra.
At Bay of Bengal, rivers meet the sea to form Bhitarkanika, the estuarine delta. Visitors are encouraged to spend a day on the waters amidst the mangroves, watching crocodiles, King Cobras and Pythons.
Nandankanan Zoological Park is a 437 hectare zoo and botanical garden in Bhubaneswar with a popular reptile park. Nandankanan is in the vicinity of Chandaka Reserve Forest and Kanjia Lake which enable maintaining the park as natural habitat as possible.
Monsoon Snake Tourism, Maharashtra
Monsoons make the beautiful Western Ghats heavenly. Not only ordinary tourists flock around Matheran during monsoons but also herping enthusiasts. Matheran is well known for its scenic beauty during monsoons. However, snake tourism also is encouraged during this time. The rains call for the mating season of the amphibians and they are out on the fields calling to each other. It is a great opportunity for the snakes to catch easy prey. This enables snake sighting. Snakes are often found camouflaged and hanging on trees or swimming in streams or laying under a stone or a log. A person on a herping trail needs to have all her/his five senses strong and be alert, calm and patient with all necessary precautions.
Snake Tourism Outside India:
Turkey’s Snake Tourism
Turkey’s Antalya Ecological National Park houses innumerable plants and reptiles that are at the risk of extinction. Sheltering plants imply saving millions of micro and thousands of macro organisms we can’t think of. The collection of reptiles in the park include poisonous as well as non poisonous snakes, chameleons, lizards and crocodiles. The show stoppers of the park are Pythons, Coral Snakes, Boa Constrictors, Vipers, Cobras, Mambas, Timber Rattle Snakes, Spitting Snakes and Anacondas. Besides snakes the visitors are intrigued by rare alligators too and scorpions (arachnid) at night tours. Night tour sighting requires thermal cameras. Russians contribute maximum to Snake tourism of Antalya because they believe that palms don’t sweat on touching a living snake. They come with the hope of getting to touch one.
Monteverde Herpetarium Adventures, Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s ‘Monteverde Herpetarium Adventures’ is a significant name in the little world of snake tourism. Poisonous snakes of the Costa Rica’s Cloud Forest are separated from the visitors through a glass divide. Their natural habitat remains unchanged. Viper and cobra are the major attractions. Visitors are interested in reptiles like lizards and iguanas and amphibians like frogs and turtles.
The Reptiles and Amphibians of Panama
It is a dream holiday for many to stay in canopy towers and lodge amidst the spectacular rainforest. Visitors are amazed at the sight of Eyelash viper, coral snake, speckled racer, Panama Teiid, white lipped mud turtle and humming birds. An expert herpetologist guides one through the forest trail and is vital in development of Snake tourism.
Snake Tourism, Namibia
Namibia’s herpetology tour’s night walk is popular among snake enthusiasts. Horned and many horned Adder, Peringuey’s Adder, Namaqua Dwarf Adder and Puff Adder are the chief attractions of Namibia’s snake tourism besides the notorious African Cobras like Cape Cobras, Black Cobras, Western Barred Cobras and Zebra Cobras. Western Barred Cobras and Zebra Cobras are venom spitting. One has to be patient and alert on the trail. Namib Sand Snakes, Dwarf beaked snakes and a few mole snakes are also found on the trail. This area is full of endemic and elusive Namib snakes. This trip also includes visiting the iconic Deadvlei and Sossusvlei of the Kalahari Desert.
Booming International Snake Tourism
One can participate in snake catching which is safe for both the snake and the self at Sunshine Coast, Australia. This is the first of the kind in the world. Teenagers are encouraged to take this trip as it will instill them a love and respect for these ancient reptiles.
Madagascar is often referred to as an Island of wonderful snakes. Snake Tourism is popular here.
The National Parks in USA and the tours in the Latin American Amazon Forest never disappoint snake enthusiasts.
We as responsible tourists should see to it that snake tourism is promoted legally, maintaining all safety norms. In Morocco still Aissauas (snake charmers) store cobras and Puff Adders in wooden cases and showcase them at traditional markets, souks and near resorts. It was their tradition which is more than 500 years old but should not be encouraged today. India, often referred to as land of snake charmers, have a ban on snake catching since the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 has been levied. However, sometimes in the rural areas we find snake charmers showing snake charming games or arranging snake and mongoose fight. This is absolutely banned and illegal. So anyone who finds out such incidents, should immediately report to the police of the forest department.