Welcome to the wild world of Africa’s most venomous snakes – a slithering lineup that’s as fascinating as it is terrifying.

Picture this: you’re trekking through the lush African savannah or the dense jungles, and out of nowhere, you encounter a creature that could end your adventure in a heartbeat. These snakes aren’t just part of the scenery; they’re nature’s most efficient predators, equipped with venom potent enough to drop an elephant (or a very unlucky human).

This isn’t just a list of dangerous reptiles; it’s your ultimate guide to the deadliest snakes in Africa. We’re taking a journey through the habitats and hunting grounds of these formidable creatures, unveiling their lethal secrets and why they deserve both our respect and caution.

From the lightning-fast strikes of the Black Mamba to the stealthy tree-dwelling Boomslang, we’ve got every spine-chilling detail covered.

Ready to meet the ten deadliest snakes in Africa? Let’s slither right in.

The 10 Deadliest Snakes in Africa:

1. Black Mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis)

The real-life nightmare that moves faster than your worst hangover. If there’s one snake that commands both fear and respect in Africa, it’s the Black Mamba.

Known for its speed, aggression, and potent venom, the Black Mamba is the stuff of legends – and for good reason.

Sleek and sinuous, the Black Mamba isn’t actually black. Its name comes from the dark, inky color inside its mouth, which it displays as a warning before striking.

This snake can grow up to 14 feet long, making it one of the longest venomous snakes in Africa. Its coloration varies from grey to dark brown, blending seamlessly into the African landscape.


When it comes to venom, the Black Mamba doesn’t play around. Its neurotoxic venom attacks the nervous system, causing paralysis, respiratory failure, and, if untreated, death.

A single bite delivers enough venom to kill 10 adult humans, and the onset of symptoms is terrifyingly swift.

Victims can start experiencing symptoms within 30 minutes, with death occurring in as little as 7 hours without treatment.

This snake prefers to avoid confrontation, but when cornered, it becomes highly aggressive and strikes repeatedly.

Where to Find Them

Black Mambas are found across sub-Saharan Africa, favoring savannas, rocky hills, and open woodlands.

They’re shy creatures, often found in termite mounds, hollow trees, or abandoned burrows.

The 10 Deadliest Snakes In Africa
Black Mamba | The 10 Deadliest Snakes In Africa

2. Puff Adder (Bitis arietans)

It’s like stepping on a landmine, except it hisses.

The Puff Adder is one of the most widespread and dangerous snakes in Africa, responsible for more snakebite fatalities than any other snake on the continent.

Stocky and sluggish, the Puff Adder relies on its impressive camouflage to ambush prey. It can grow up to 6 feet long and has a thick, muscular body with a beautiful yet deadly zigzag pattern running along its back.

This pattern helps it blend into the underbrush, making it nearly invisible until it’s too late.


The Puff Adder’s venom is cytotoxic, which means it destroys cells and tissues.

A bite from this snake causes immense pain, swelling, and tissue damage. Without prompt medical treatment, the venom can lead to necrosis, where the affected tissue dies and starts to rot, often requiring amputation.

The Puff Adder is responsible for the most snakebite fatalities in Africa. Its tendency to lie still and rely on camouflage means it’s often accidentally stepped on, triggering a defensive strike.

Where to Find Them

Puff Adders are found throughout sub-Saharan Africa, from open grasslands to forests. They’re highly adaptable and can thrive in various environments, including near human settlements.

When walking through areas where Puff Adders might be present, always wear sturdy boots and watch your step.

Use a walking stick to gently probe the ground ahead of you. If you encounter a Puff Adder, give it plenty of space and back away slowly.

Puffadder © Image credit: 123rf/ Nico Smit | The 10 Deadliest Snakes In Africa


3. Cape Cobra (Naja nivea)

A beauty with a deadly kiss. The Cape Cobra is as vibrant as it is venomous, known for its striking yellow or brown coloration and potent neurotoxic venom.

This snake is a true embodiment of danger wrapped in beauty, making it one of Africa’s most intriguing yet perilous creatures.

The Cape Cobra can range in color from bright yellow to dark brown, and sometimes even black, depending on its geographic location.

It’s a relatively slender snake, growing up to 5 feet long, and is often seen with its characteristic hood flared, a warning sign to would-be predators or threats.


Cape Cobra venom is neurotoxic, meaning it attacks the nervous system. A bite from this snake can lead to respiratory failure and death within hours if not treated promptly.

The venom works fast, causing symptoms like difficulty breathing, paralysis, and even coma.

Where to Find Them

Cape Cobras are primarily found in southern Africa, particularly in South Africa, Namibia, and Botswana. They inhabit a variety of environments, from arid deserts to moist savannas, and are often seen near human settlements.

The Cape Cobra is often found in urban areas, including vineyards and farms in South Africa. This proximity to human activity increases the chances of encounters, making awareness and caution crucial.

If you’re exploring areas where Cape Cobras might be present, be mindful of your surroundings. Avoid tall grass and be cautious when turning over rocks or logs.

If you see a Cape Cobra, do not attempt to handle or provoke it. Back away slowly and give it plenty of space to escape.

Cape Cobra © Hopkins, K & Measey, KT | The 10 Deadliest Snakes In Africa

4. Gaboon Viper (Bitis gabonica)

The heavy hitter with the longest fangs in the snake world.

The Gaboon Viper is a true masterpiece of nature, combining beauty with sheer power and lethality.

This snake is not just one of Africa’s deadliest but also one of its most visually striking.

The Gaboon Viper boasts an intricate pattern of browns, purples, and pinks, providing perfect camouflage in the forest floor’s leaf litter.

It’s a hefty snake, with adults reaching lengths of up to 6 feet and weighing up to 20 pounds. Its broad head and distinctive horns on its snout make it easily recognizable.


The Gaboon Viper’s venom is hemotoxic, causing massive tissue damage, pain, and swelling. With the longest fangs of any venomous snake, measuring up to 2 inches, it delivers a substantial dose of venom in a single bite.

This can result in intense pain, swelling, and even systemic effects like blood clotting disorders and organ failure if not treated promptly.

The Gaboon Viper has the highest venom yield of any snake, delivering up to 600 mg of venom in a single bite.

Despite its deadly potential, it’s known for its calm demeanor and tendency to remain motionless, relying on its camouflage to avoid detection.

Where to Find Them

Gaboon Vipers are found in the rainforests and savannas of West and Central Africa. They prefer humid, forested areas where their camouflage allows them to blend seamlessly with the leaf litter on the forest floor.

When trekking through areas inhabited by Gaboon Vipers, stay on clear paths and avoid walking through dense underbrush. Always wear sturdy boots and be cautious when stepping over logs or rocks.

If you encounter a Gaboon Viper, do not approach it. Give it plenty of space and move away slowly.

Gaboon Viper | The 10 Deadliest Snakes In Africa

5. Boomslang (Dispholidus typus)

Don’t let the name fool you – it’s not a slang for ‘harmless’. The Boomslang is an arboreal predator with a lethal bite, known for its ability to blend into the foliage and strike with deadly precision.

The Boomslang, which translates to “tree snake” in Afrikaans, is a master of disguise in the treetops. It can grow up to 6 feet long, with large eyes and a slender body that ranges in color from bright green to brown or even black.

This coloration helps it blend perfectly into its arboreal habitat, making it nearly invisible to both prey and potential threats.


The Boomslang’s venom is hemotoxic, causing internal bleeding and disrupting blood clotting. Victims may experience severe hemorrhaging, including bleeding from mucous membranes, muscles, and internal organs.

The effects can be delayed, sometimes taking several hours to manifest, which can be misleading and dangerous.

The Boomslang’s fangs are located at the back of its mouth, a feature known as opisthoglyphous dentition. Despite this, it can open its jaws incredibly wide to deliver a bite.

Its venom was once thought to be harmless to humans until the tragic death of herpetologist Karl Schmidt in 1957, which brought its deadly potential to light.

Where to Find Them

Boomslangs are found throughout sub-Saharan Africa, in both forested and savanna regions. They are highly arboreal, spending most of their time in trees and bushes, hunting birds, chameleons, and small mammals.

When exploring areas where Boomslangs might reside, be extra cautious when moving through trees or shrubs.

Look above and around you, and avoid disturbing branches where these snakes might be resting. If you spot a Boomslang, admire it from a distance and avoid any sudden movements.

the 10 deadliest snakes in africa
Boomslang © African Snakebite Institute | The 10 Deadliest Snakes In Africa