What it’s like to do a Snake Handling Course

In case you’re thinking of doing a snake handling course yourself, I thought I’d tell you about what to expect from the experience. You can find out more about groups that present snake handling courses in your area, at the end of this post.

I’ve attended courses by both the African Snakebite Institute (presented by Johan Marais), and the Cape Reptile Institute (presented by Dr Tony Phelps) – most of the clips you’ll see in this video are from the time I attended the Cape Reptile Institute course.

Your course will be structured more or less as follows:

We were given some reading material when we arrived for the course, and the day started off with a theory lecture discussing snakes, snakebite, and snake safety, followed by a written exam to test our knowledge of the theory.

After the written exam we had a hands-on identification test – there were a couple of snakes out on a table, we got to spend some time with them, look at them, touch them, and then we had to try and identify each of them correctly (which counted towards our final marks).

After that we finally got to the practical snake handling part of the course! As you can see in the video we started with a rope (so we could get used to picking up a snake properly with a hookstick), then after we finished with the rope we moved on to live snakes.

Starting with Mole Snakes, we had to pick them up properly, carry them in the right way, put them in a bin, close the bin the correctly, and so on, all under the watchful eye of an instructor. We each got a couple of tries with the Mole Snake, after which we moved on to Puff Adders, then Cape Cobras, and finally Boomslang.

As we practised, our instructor was able to tell us what we were doing wrong, help us correct our technique, and give us general guidance. After we finished up with the Boomslang we moved on to a final practical exam where we were divided up into teams of two and each team was given a scenario where there was a snake hidden somewhere – the team had to go and find it, identify it, and then safely capture & contain it.


If you have an interest in snakes or you live in an area where you often encounter snakes, I can highly recommend doing a course like this!

Take a look at the links below for more details about groups who present courses in your area, and feel free to send me a message if you have any questions!

Sign up for a Snake Identification & Handling Course:

The following institutions provide snake-related courses in South Africa on a regular basis, click on any of the logos to contact them and learn more:

(If you provide Snake-related courses or training and you’re not listed here, please send me your details so I can add you).

highlights-from-the-cape-reptile-institute-snake-handling-course-20170325-04

Highlights from the Cape Reptile Institute Snake Handling Course (2017-03)

Below are some highlights from the Cape Reptile Institute‘s Snake Identification & Handling course, presented by Dr Tony Phelps and held at Driftsands Nature Reserve on the 25th of March 2017.

Course Day 1 (Saturday):

On the first day of the course, the attendees attended a theory lecture, learnt about snakebite first aid, and completed a practical identification exam where they got to handle more than 15 different snakes.

Course Day 2 (Sunday):

On the second day of the course, the attendees handled Mole Snakes, Puff Adders, Boomslang, and Cape Cobras, wrote a theory exam, and then completed a practical exam.

Sign up for a course with the Cape Reptile Institute:

If you’d like to attend one of the CRI Snake Awareness & Handling Courses, please email Marcel Witberg on witbergm@absamail.co.za for details.

highlights-from-the-cape-reptile-institute-snake-handling-course-20170226-05

Highlights from the Cape Reptile Institute Snake Handling Course (2017-02)

Below are some highlights from the Cape Reptile Institute‘s Snake Identification & Handling course, presented by Dr Tony Phelps and held at Driftsands Nature Reserve on the 25th of February 2017.

Course Day 1 (Saturday):

On the first day of the course, the attendees attended a theory lecture, learnt about snakebite first aid, and completed a practical identification exam where they got to handle more than 15 different snakes.

Course Day 2 (Sunday):

On the second day of the course, the attendees handled Mole Snakes, Puff Adders, Boomslang, and Cape Cobras, wrote a theory exam, and then completed a practical exam.

Sign up for a course with the Cape Reptile Institute:

If you’d like to attend one of the CRI Snake Awareness & Handling Courses, please email Marcel Witberg on witbergm@absamail.co.za for details.

20161126-highlights-from-cape-reptile-institute-snake-handling-course

Highlights from the Cape Reptile Institute Snake Handling Course (2016-11)

Below are some highlights from the Cape Reptile Institute‘s Snake Identification & Handling course, presented by Dr Tony Phelps and held at Driftsands Nature Reserve on the 26th of November 2016.

Course Day 1 (Saturday):

On the first day of the course, the attendees attended a theory lecture, learnt about snakebite first aid, and completed a practical identification exam where they got to handle more than 15 different snakes.

Course Day 2 (Sunday):

On the second day of the course, the attendees handled Mole Snakes, Puff Adders, Boomslang, and Cape Cobras, wrote a theory exam, and then completed a practical exam.

Sign up for a course with the Cape Reptile Institute:

If you’d like to attend one of the CRI Snake Awareness & Handling Courses, please email Marcel Witberg on witbergm@absamail.co.za for details.