The mere sight of these crawlies send a chill up our spines. Snakes arouse both curiosity and fear in our minds. We have a strange fascination to animals that are dangerous to handle. The myths and folklores surrounding the snakes also make us their worshippers.
If the snakes are safely in glass boxes, we may get nearer to have a closer look. Outside the box, even a small snake can scare us as much as an Anaconda can. These crawlies instil the same level of fear as any wild animal would. Snakes usually bite only in defence. But there are few places where snakes can be watched from a safe distance. Let us get a closer view of five such places.
Parassinikkadavu, some 16km from the city centre in the northern district of Kannur houses a snake sanctuary. The researchers claim that there are about 150 different types of snakes here. There are both poisonous and non-poisonous snakes and these are segregated into easily recognizable groups. Some of the species facing extinction are also nurtured here. Different varieties of cobras, vipers locally called 'Mandali,' common kraits, pythons etc. attract visitors.
Apart from snakes, civets, monkeys, monitor lizards, crocodiles and birds such as peacocks, owls, guinea fowls, eagles etc. also find shelter here. The nearest railway station to Parassinikkadavu is Kannur and the nearest airport is at Karippur in Kozhikkode which is some 90 km away.
Guindy Snake Park, Chennai
Guindy Snake Park, commissioned in 1972 is the first snake park in India. It is located right next to the children's park. Certified by the Central Zoo Association, the Guindy Snake Park houses about 39 species of snakes. Out of these 23 are various types of Indian snakes and the rest are snake types not found in India. The snakes are kept inside glass boxes. There is an aquarium housing water snakes and tortoises. The service of guides can be availed if required and they can communicate in Tamil and English. A centre, researching snakes and snake venom is part of the park. Guindy is a well-known place and is easily accessible. Bus Service from Chennai Central and Koyambedu Bus Station to Guindy are frequent. The place can also be accessed through Metro Rail.
Katraj Snake Park, Pune
The sprawling 42 acres of Rajiv Gandhi National Park in Katraj near Pune houses a snake park. It is a zoological park with many other animal types. Originally a snake park, it was expanded and renamed Rajiv Gandhi Zoological Park. Apart from snakes, orphaned and injured animals are also brought here and kept under care.
The administrators claim housing some 22 varieties of snakes here. These include some 13 footer King Cobras and some of the smallest kinds of snakes. To familiarize people with the snakes, snake festivals are conducted. The park is by the Pune-Satara highway near Bharati Vidyapeeth University about 8km from Pune.
Kolkata Snake Garden
The Kolkata Snake Park was inaugurated in 1977 by the then Forest Minister Dipak Mitra. An animal lover, Dr Dipak Mitra took the initiative to set up the park. Snakes are usually killed at sight by humans and Dipak Mitra wanted to do something to save these creatures. When people did not leave even the snakes in the park, he decided to keep them away from humans.
But after popular demand, the park was opened to the public. Subsequently burrows and dens were made for the snakes. Now, Kolkata Snake Park is one of the largest zoological parks in India spread over 2 acres of land and housing other varieties of animals. Any tour of Kolkata can easily accommodate a visit to the snake park as it is not very far from the city centre. It is just a 40 minute drive by road.
Bannerghatta National Park, Bengaluru
Bannerghatta national park near Bengaluru houses snakes as well as other animals. It was started in 1970 and presently houses a large number of snake species. These reptiles are kept safely in large steel boxes. Rocks, grass, other vegetation etc. of the normal habitats of snakes are arranged. A good part of the national park is occupied by the snake park.
Often the visitors find it difficult to locate the snakes as they are in their natural habitat. But trying to locate them is fun. Bannerghatta Snake Park is probably the best snake park in India.
There are plenty of bus services to Bannerghata from Bengaluru. Buses do service also from the Bengaluru airport. The park is open from 9am till 5:30pm. Tuesdays are holidays.
Agumbe, a vivid village in Karnataka, is often referred to as the 'Cherapunji of South' with an average rainfall of 2,647 mm in July. Thanks to the dense rainforest that carpets this area, reptiles, especially king cobras, are no strangers here.
King cobra is the flagship species of Agumbe and many researchers visit the Agumbe Rainforest Research Station to study and observe this endangered species. Enjoy the natural treks at this snake capital and you will encounter many species on your way.
Overnight bus from Bangalore is the easiest way to get here. The closest stop to the camp is Guddekere (4 km). A pick-up can be arranged from there. The closest airport is in Mangalore (106 km) from where you can take a local bus or taxi.