Reptiles are one of the most diverse groups in the animal kingdom. Their behaviours and physical attributes cover a broad spectrum, which is one of the reasons we humans find them so fascinating. While out on an African safari, you will almost be guaranteed to spot some species of reptile, be it a snake, lizard, crocodile, chameleon or tortoise (to name but a few) – it’s like a herpetologist’s dream destination!
In this gallery, Celebrating Africa’s Reptiles, we are taking some time out to appreciate a small selection of those stunning cold-blooded creatures, through the lens of some incredibly talented photographers who entered our Photographer of the Year 2017 and 2018 competitions. Some of the photos are accompanied by interesting facts and thoughts from the photographers themselves.
“I was in Ndumo Game Reserve when a quick movement caught my eye, and I saw the tail of a rock monitor disappear behind a tree. I approached slowly, hoping to find a nice photo opportunity, and planned to intercept it on the other side of the tree. Imagine my surprise when I realised that it was watching me through a knothole! I was very pleased to see that I had a unique image of an often overlooked species. I love the way the rough bark suggests the skin of the monitor, while the eye eerily peers out of an unexpected place.” ~ Ernest Porter
“Being nocturnal, these geckos live mostly nestled in deep burrows in the desert sand where there is a moderate amount of moisture during the day. They venture out to the surface only when the desert’s temperature has dropped at night.” ~ Tyrone Ping
“Walking in Mana Pools, I noticed a martial eagle having a tussle with something in the distance. I walked over quietly to get a better look but was too noisy, and the bird flew off. On the ground, I noticed a legavaan (rock monitor), clearly dazed but seemingly undamaged. I lay down quietly some distance away, and the monitor composed itself and slowly stalked across the baked earth towards me, tongue darting in and out. It wandered around about for several minutes, unaware that I was there. Its skittish senses soon returned though and realising how exposed it was; it darted up a nearby tree.” ~ Nicholas Dyer
The Parson’s chameleon (Calumma parsonii) is the largest in the world. Found in the lush rainforests of eastern and northern Madagascar, the Parson’s is a magnificent reptile to behold. There are two subspecies of Parson’s chameleon; the Calumma parsonii cristifer grows up to 45cm, while the larger Calumma parsonii parsonii grows up to 68cm – about the size of a domestic cat! Read more fascinating facts about the Parson’s chameleon here
“I was staying at Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve when I was told that one of the rangers, a snake enthusiast and guide, had rescued a black spitting cobra (Naja nigricincta woodi) from one of the staff toilets. Having never seen one, I hot-footed it over to him and asked if I could take a few photographs. I was thrilled when he said I could go with him to release it back into the surrounding bush. It was such an honour to share a few moments with such a majestic and beautiful creature: an experience I will never forget.” ~ Dionne Miles
“The Namib Desert is known for its true beauty of shape-shifting sand dunes and the iconic Dead Vlei. We came across this Peringuey’s adder (Bitis peringueyi) beneath the scorching desert sand – a true master of camouflage and desert living. With only its oddly positioned eyes sticking out of the sand, any small lizard who wanders too close will meet an untimely end.” ~ Tyrone Ping
“I noticed this delightful day gecko sipping the nectar from some succulent plants near where I was having lunch in Ranomafana National Park. I raced off to get my camera gear and managed to get some macro images before he disappeared.” ~ Sarah Zito
“This African tiger snake, also known as the Eastern tiger snake, was spotted on a tree at Mabuasehube in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. This is a small, slow-moving snake that hunts at night.” ~ Fanie Heymans
The territorial calls of the barking gecko can be heard at dusk and on overcast days during the hottest time of the dry Namaqualand summer. The males sit at the entrance to their burrow and emit a “kek-kek-kek” sound for hours on end. Apart from territorial defence, the calls also attract females.
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