Our first call was from only 5 minutes’ drive away – a landowner in the forest adjacent to the village had seen what he thought was a python. This surprised me a little – the locals are scared of these as well as the more dangerous venomous cobras, and not just because of the potential of losing livestock. We walked a little way up a small metalled track which was set up quite a steep gradient, and then peeled off into the banana / forest vegetation. It only took a short while before one of the team had something. He was pointing into a small hole in a rotting tree lying on the ground, where the vermiculations of a large snake could be seen. With a bit of brute effort and a lot of skilled experience two of the team had extracted a medium sized Reticulated Python. Oddly, it only seemed to have one eye, but apparently not too much of a hindrance to existence. The python was placed on a tree for a while before being bagged for transport elsewhere.
Great start. With this brilliant snake literally in the bag, we drove a short way back down the track, since another landowner had reported what he thought was a cobra. The two main snake hunters in the team where off in a shot from their scooter as we parked up, and we followed minutes later with another member of the crew. We walked about 50 metres to a lean to when we heard the magic word being shouted – “King!”. More than enough for us to change direction and quicken the pace. Seconds later we could see the team with a medium sized King Cobra between them, facing them down in the way cobras do. While not one of the larger King Cobras, it was still an impressive sight, and arguably the main target (if we had one) for the trip. The experience over the next half an hour watching a wild King Cobra did nothing to remove it from this lofty position. Catching this specimen was a much trickier affair than the python however. The technique seemed to revolve around grasping from behind the head with a thickly gloved hand. Many attempts were close but bailed out before it was safely bagged. Another King Cobra saved from a battering by a grateful landowner!
The best time to see King Cobras in this way according to Shinta is around midday, when they have been hunting and settled down somewhat. Our cobra had obeyed thus rule, which then left us at our own lunch hiatus. We settled down in a restaurant next to the waves before returning to the rescue shelter. No sooner had we arrived than another call came through, this time for a Spitting Cobra. Unbelievably, the stars seemed to be aligning just nicely. This was only a couple of streets away, and the optimism was high when we got out of the car. The call had been made with the Spitting Cobra present. After sticking some (protective) sunglasses in the bag, we walked up a lane to find the scooter of the team in a yard. The family from the house were watching the pair examining a very small woodpile. And yes, the cobra was there. The eyes were glazed over, pre-empting skin shedding, which may have explained the docile nature it had. No eye threatening venom slung in our direction today, but great views of another iconic cobra. It was mid-afternoon by then, and the team was dispersing, so we were taken back to the hotel concluding two excellent snake hunting/watching sessions. Now the birding could begin!