The Green Snakes Of Durban and Kwa-Zulu Natal

If you’ve seen a thin green snake in your garden in Kwa Zulu Natal chances are it’s NOT a Green Mamba or Boomslang, but rather of one the four harmless green snakes.

Including the 6 green snakes there are eighty-three different types of snakes found in Kwa-Zulu Natal, of which fourty-four species are not venomous; eight can cause painful although not lethal bites; and, eleven that are known to be potentially deadly.


Green Mamba – Dendroaspis angusticeps 

Arguably the most impressive and iconic venomous green snake in Africa. The Green Mamba is an impressive snake averaging around 1.8m but can grow towards length of 2.5m.

A brilliantly coloured lime green robust snake that seldom ventures down to the ground and spends the majority of its time in dense foliage and tree’s where it actively hunts its prey, such as birds, small mammals like rodents and squirrels. These snakes occour only in a narrow astrip along the coast, seldom venturng further than 7km inland. As a general rule of thumb, if you cannot see, smell or hear the sea you will not find Green Mamba’s there.

The Green Mamba has an impressive coffin shaped head which is quite distinctive from the body and not easily confused with any of the other harmless green snakes. It has a lime green belly and bright green upper side with occasional with have the an odd few bright yellow scales. These are shy snakes are often will avoid confrontation and flee into foliage, bites are uncommon and usually on snake handlers who are attempting to catch these snakes.

The Green Mamba is found all the way from Kosi Bay in the North down a narrow strip along the east coast just entering the Eastern Cape in the region of the Umtamvuna river which serves as the border between Kwazulu Natal and the former Transkei region.  There are several unconfirmed reports of Green Mambas around the Port St John’s region but haven’t not be confirmed.


Common Boomslang (Dispholidus typus viridis)

These snakes are strictly tree-dwelling animals and seldom venture down to the ground, with the exception being to feed or drink. Boomslangs are not commonly found in Durban due to their secretive nature and excellent camouflage. They are one of the few snakes in Southern Africa that are sexually dimorphic, meaning that the males and females feature different colouring. Often the males are bright green, and the females dull brown/grey or olive. Juvenile snakes are brown/grey with speckles, and have a brilliant emerald-green eye. Averaging around 1.5m in length, Boomslangs can often reach close to 2m. These snakes rarely bite people, and are docile in nature. They possess a potent haemotoxic venom, for which there is an antivenom available. It solely deals with bites from these snakes, and is called a monovalent antivenom.


Spotted Bush Snake (Philothamnus semivariegatus)

A vibrant green and black slender snakes, the Spotted Bush Snake is an excellent climber and often found around homes and outbuildings. They are the most common of the Green Snakes found in Durban. These highly active snakes hunt geckos, which make up most of their diet; these snakes are particularly fond of Tropical House Geckos. Unfortunately for the Spotted Bush Snake they are killed in large numbers after mistakenly being misidentified as Green Mambas or Boomslang.


Green Water Snake – Philothamnus hoplogaster

This is the lesser-seen of the harmless green snakes found in Durban. The Green Water Snake is much smaller than the Spotted Bush Snake (Philothamnus semivariegatus) andEastern Natal Green Snake – Philothamnus natalensis and averages around 60cm in length. They prefer to live in damp areas around ponds and rockeries, as well as in dense bush. They feed largely on frogs, small lizards, and geckos. They can sometimes be seen sleeping in low bushes and shrubs near water. They are placid snakes which seldom—if ever—attempt to bite, and many people see these snakes when bought into the house by domestic cats.


Eastern Natal Green Snake – Philothamnus natalensis

These snakes are far less common in Durban than the Spotted Bush Snake, and they tend to prefer dense coastal forests and thick bush along the coastline. They occasionally enter homes built in and around natural vegetation. They are a robust snake, typically a bright emerald green with a yellow underside, but can also have a few black transverse bars on the dorsal side of the body. Much like the Spotted Bush Snake (Philothamnus semivariegatus) the Eastern Natal Green Snake – Philothamnus natalensisis mistaken for the much larger Green Mamba or Boomslang and is needlessly killed.


Western Natal Green Snake – Philothamnus occidentalis

The Western Natal Green snake is absent from coastal Durban only occurring south of Amanzimtoti and inland from around Kloof west Of Durban. Often confused with the Eastern Natal Green Snake – Philothamnus natalensis by amateur herpetologists and laymen alike.

These snakes are similar in nature to the Eastern Natal Green snake where they favour dense vegetation although will often seek refuge near the ground amongst the lower undergrowth where the feed on small geckos, frogs and lizards. The key factor between these and the other green snakes is the dark almost pitch black iris of the snake with blue flecks seen between the scales when the snakes become irate. In Durban and Kwa-Zulu Natal they do not always have the turquoise colouration on the head and tail as common in the Eastern Cape region.


Jason Arnold – 082 745 6375 (Greater Durban Area)
Byron Zimmerman – 082 894 6783 (Upper Highway Area)
Tyrone Ping – 0844922542 (Durban North)

by Tyrone Ping

21 thoughts on “Green Snakes of Durban

  1. Barbara says:

    Amazing pics. No snake in my garden gets killed. Gardeners know that! If they see a snake, they are instructed to call myself or my son. We will then remove and relocate the beauty. Even my 11 yr old and 7yr old grandkids know their snakes. Teach the young when they are young to respect nature’s diversity.

  2. Khuleka says:

    Just saw a green snake with black spots or strips… Very thin about 1m long… Not sure what It was so I monitored it till it got to the Bush and went away from my house… What do you think it was?

  3. David Sparrow says:

    Great Photos. Solid accurate information. I often see bush snakes and my first thought is always BOOMSLANG! but alas, almost always a bush snake. I teach my boys snakes are like lizards, leave them alone and they’ll leave you alone.

  4. Kwenzo says:

    Thanks guys… i just saw 2 of the harmless green ones in my yard right now. I just left them there, i was scared. But now i know there is nothing to be scared of, they just hunting. And im in Richards Bay not Durbs.

  5. Albert says:

    Hi Tyrone…just seen a thin green snake markings…next to our fountain in Winklespruit. About 1 m or just over 1 m….moved very fast away from me. Green water snake ?

  6. Daniel Longwe says:

    Thanks for this information. I’ve seen the common snakes in my one room I’m renting in Pinetown. I want to know if it’s okay to handle them to remove them. They keep lounging on the inside of the house near the roof but it’s freaking my gf out. She will try her best to get the landlord to remove them violently and cement the gaps in the wall but I don’t want that. Would the bite hurt a lot?

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