This past week has been the perfect time to go boating and enjoy the water – but it’s apparently also the perfect time for some rare to get some Vitamin Sea.
One Maltese man found this out for himself when he went out for a chill day on a boat, and saw a rare snake casually cruising atop the waves – and headed for some nearby boats.
“We were coming in front the Ta’ Xbiex Polo Club, where I noticed something strange which could be a rope, and I told the other person that it looked like a snake,” Norbert Cutajar told Lovin Malta.
“We turned and in fact it was, swimming very fast and also trying to climb into a boat. We called the owner of the boat, but no one was there at that moment. While we sailed nearby, it came very close to the rib but kept on swimming towards land,” he continued.
Impressed that Cutajar experienced such a rare encounter, local herpetologists quickly praised the photos and chance meeting
After he posted the photos to social media, experts confirmed that the snake was an Algerian Whip Snake (serp aħdar), a rare and protected species found in Malta.
“Although most snake species are good swimmers, Algerian Whip Snakes are not generally associated with water. Your photos are extraordinary and a very very rare encounter. If these images were taken in Malta I’m guessing that this individual was crossing the water between Floriana/Pieta/Ta’ Braxia and Manoel Island,” said Nick Dobbs, a herpetologist.
“As Arnold Sciberras will concur, there has been a colony of this wonderful species on Malta for perhaps more than 100 years. Very effective in keeping rodent populations in check. It is believed they may have come on a shipment of timber from North Africa. Unlike the Cat Snake which probably arrived on Malta the same way, the Algerian Whip Snake has not expanded its range across Malta and is confined to the areas I mentioned. The Algerian Whip Snake is non-venomous and harmless to humans. As a herpetologist, I am very envious of your encounter. In over 50 years of visiting the Maltese Islands I only ever saw one for the first time earlier this year. Their numbers are thought to be in serious decline on Malta due to over-development,” he continued.
A local expert explained what to do if you come across a snake while out at sea
“Unfortunately, it’s illegal to handle local snakes,” said Arnold Sciberras. “If you come across a snake at sea, just leave it and allow it to find the shore.”
“This species is know to almost exclusively reside in this area in Malta, and our island is the only European country that represents this species,” he continued.
And for anyone thinking this was one exceptionally adventurers whip snake, Sciberras noted that snakes swimming in the Maltese sea “happens regularly at this time of year”.
Both Arnold and Nick are part of the Malta Herpetolgist Society, an NGO dedicated to conserving such species. You can find out more about the MHS by following this link
All photos: Norbert Cutajar