Bali's snakes and herping in Bali with Bali Reptile Rescue

April 12, 2019  •  1 Comment

According to 'Reptiles and Amphibians of Bali' by Ruchira Somaweera there are 76 species of reptile that live on Bali, with 43 of those being snakes. Bali is also quite densely populated (particularly in the south where I live) with most of the land either cultivated or built upon. It is therefore a reality that snakes and humans come into contact with each other quite frequently here.

Many people are very afraid of snakes, and as a result they are often killed on sight. Bali is fortunate to have a dedicated group of people called 'Bali Reptile Rescue' (BRR) - an organisation that provide a free 24-hour reptile rescue and removal service. I have had the pleasure of going out with them several times and their dedication, knowledge and compassion is highly commendable. It is a difficult thing to balance both the welfare of people and that of the snakes (and sometimes other wildlife).

On my first trip out with Adi from BRR I was also accompanied by a colleague (it was her first ever herping experience!). It was a highly successful trip and we came across numerous snakes of various species, several of which I had never encountered before. The most abundant was the painted bronzeback (Dendrelaphis pictus), of which we saw at least a dozen. It may be common, but it is a nightmare to photograph! 'Thrashy' is the best description that I can give. When photographing snakes I like to try and include the whole animal in the photo but I realised early on this was unlikely to happen with this species. This was one of my first attempts:

We also encountered several oriental vine snakes (Ahaetulla prasina). A beautiful species that is widespread in SE Asia - I have already seen them in Penang and the Perhentian islands in Malaysia. Their colour can be quite variable but the ones we saw were bright green. These two photos show the same individual:

Towards the end of the trip we also saw a large Indochinese rat snake (Ptyas korros). Due to its size, this species is often mistaken for a king cobra and is regularly killed as a result:

Indochinese rat snake (Ptyas korros)Indochinese rat snake (Ptyas korros)

One of my favourite encounters this evening was with a mangrove cat snake (Boiga dendrophila). A beautiful species, but challenging to photograph due to its black colouration:

We also came across a few other (non-snake) animals, such as this maned forest lizard (Bronchocela jubata) - one of the few agamid lizards found in Bali:

Maned forest lizard (Bronchocela jubata)Maned forest lizard (Bronchocela jubata)

...and this Asian grass lizard (Takydromus sexlineatus):

Asian grass lizard (Takydromus sexlineatus)Asian grass lizard (Takydromus sexlineatus)

My second trip with BRR was a trip to West Bali with the hope of seeing a wild king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah). I was joined on this trip by Chris, Richard and Paul, all keen snake enthusiasts from across the world. We were led by Shinta and Agus from BRR. The first snake we came across on the trip was an Indonesian spitting cobra (Naja sputatrix), a highly venomous species so-called for its habit of spitting its venom. This one slithered away quickly but I did manage to snap a quick profile shot:

Not long after, we encountered an impressively large reticulated python (Malayopython reticulatus). I have been lucky to see a number of individuals of this species across SE Asia. This beautiful individual had a distinctively yellow head:

Reticulated python (Malayopython reticulatus)Reticulated python (Malayopython reticulatus)

During the day we also encountered my Bali snake photography nemesis the painted bronzeback (Dendrelaphis pictus). Once again I tried to get full body photos and had a little more success than earlier attempts, though nothing to write home about!:

Painted bronzeback (Dendrelaphis pictus)Painted bronzeback (Dendrelaphis pictus) Painted bronzeback (Dendrelaphis pictus)Painted bronzeback (Dendrelaphis pictus)

The afternoon ended with no king cobra sightings but I was nonetheless very pleased with these daytime encounters. That evening we went out again. Early on I came across my first white-lipped island pit viper (Trimeresurus insularis), a highly venomous but spectacularly pretty species:

We also encountered several more oriental vine snakes (Ahaetulla prasina), with this individual being a less vivid green than the ones I encountered on my first herping trip in Bali:

An interesting encounter (for me) was my first close encounter with a tokay gecko (Gekko gecko). I have encountered dozens of these before in various places across the region, but never face-to-face like this. They are a highly vocal species with a very distinctive call (which sounds a bit like "to-kay" or "geck-o"). On an evening walk around Bali you will almost certainly hear one somewhere. We have one living in our house and our daughter has a love-hate relationship with it!:

Tokay gecko (Gekko gecko)Tokay gecko (Gekko gecko)

The final encounter of the evening was with my second ever Indochinese rat snake (Ptyas korros), spotted thanks to Shinta's highly perceptive eyesight:

Indochinese rat snake (Ptyas korros)Indochinese rat snake (Ptyas korros)

We went out the next morning for one final attempt at finding a king cobra. We spent most of the morning walking along a river bed, scrambling over boulders and criss-crossing the river several times. Finally, we found our prize - a huge king cobra sunning itself on a rock. I really did not expect that we would actually find one, nor did I expect to have such fantastic photographic opportunities. It also only occurred to me afterwards that in the span of 24hrs we had seen the world's longest snake species (reticulated python) and the longest venomous snake (king cobra):

King cobra (Ophiophagus hannah)King cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) King Cobra (Ophiophagus hannah)King Cobra (Ophiophagus hannah)

It was always going to be impossible to improve on the king cobra trip but a subsequent herping trip with Agus from BRR yielded a few new species and a few improved photo opportunities for previously encountered species. Firstly, I had a second encounter with a mangrove cat snake (Boiga dendrophila), finally managing a full body photo (though still struggling with the challenge of properly lighting a black snake):

Mangrove snake (Boiga dendrophila)Mangrove snake (Boiga dendrophila)

Agus had a few rescued snakes to release so I captured photos of them before they returned to live in the wild. This one is a dog-toothed cat snake (Boiga cynodon):

Dog-toothed cat snake (Boiga cynodon)Dog-toothed cat snake (Boiga cynodon)

This one is a yellow-striped racer (Coelognathus flavolineatus). He didn't really want to be photographed so I didn't push it too hard!:

I also saw a couple more maned forest lizards (Bronchocela jubata) including this one:

Maned forest lizard (Bronchocela jubata)Maned forest lizard (Bronchocela jubata)

That's it for snakes...but I'll just add a few other miscellaneous herpetological observations I've made on the island so far...

On a trip to the NW of Bali I had several more close encounters with tokay geckos. Our visit to the area (being during the rainy season) also coincided with huge swarms of flying termites taking to the air and I had an interesting 'photobomb' by one of them:

Tokay gecko (Gekko gecko)Tokay gecko (Gekko gecko)

Going back in time...before we sorted out our own place my work put us up somewhere with enough vegetation that it attracted a small menagerie of wildlife, such as this common gliding lizard (Draco volans):

Common gliding lizard (Draco volans)Common gliding lizard (Draco volans)

...this paddy field frog (Fejervarya limnocharis):

Paddy field frog (Fejervarya limnocharis)Paddy field frog (Fejervarya limnocharis)

...the occasional common sun skink (Eutropis multifasciata) - two separate encounters with a juvenile and an adult respectively:

Common sun skink (Eutropis multifasciata)Common sun skink (Eutropis multifasciata) Common sun skink (Eutropis multifasciata)Common sun skink (Eutropis multifasciata)

...and flat-tailed house geckos (Hemidactylus platyurus):

Flat-tailed house gecko (Hemidactylus platyurus)Flat-tailed house gecko (Hemidactylus platyurus)

My final photo for this post is one that is potentially quite interesting. On a short trip within Sanur I chanced across a lizard that I have seen many times across the region (the changeable lizard, Calotes versicolor). At first I thought nothing of the observation but a little research revealed that it didn't show up as being known from Bali. When I posted the photo online I was contacted by an expert and informed that the species has, as far as we know, not previously been recorded here. I contacted Nick Baker of and he put together a short-note publication of the find which can be seen at Fairly interesting at least! Anyway, here's the photo:

Changeable lizard (Calotes versicolor)Changeable lizard (Calotes versicolor)

As a final note - Bali Reptile Rescue provide a free, 24hr reptile removal and rescue service and information can be found on their website I very much look forward to many more successful trips out with them.




Barry Goldsmith(non-registered)
Good work
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