Fingers Crossed For Cobra!

Travelling abroad on field trips is always exciting, no matter what the location, or the target species. It is a good feeling, flying to a dream country to photograph something exotic! In 2016, I made two trips to the southern regions of Morocco, a very desolate place, the purpose of these trips were both to target one snake, the Moroccan Black Cobra. This was my first time travelling for photography and also my first ‘herp’ trip. Both trips were eye opening for me, it gave me a desire to travel more and also increased my knowledge on reptiles and reptile photography massively. At this stage in my photographic career, I had only encountered and photographed local snakes, such as Adder and Grass Snake, neither of these are as venomous and dangerous compared to what Morocco had in store for me… As always with photography and wildlife, things don’t always go to plan and that was unfortunately the case for my first trip in June. Due to unseasonably cold and wet weather, snakes and other reptile species were thin on the ground. The thick sea fog and drizzle diminished the chances of finding the elusive cobra, it became incredibly hard work. Within a few days I had my first snake, a Montpellier Snake, but little did I know that was as good as it was going to get. It was difficult and a large amount of effort was continuously put into finding cobras, but no joy came. Only a few geckos and two chameleons turned up. I flew home disappointed, however I was already planning the next trip back… (fingers crossed for cobra!)

It was October now, as I stepped off the plane in Agadir there was a noticeable increase in temperature. I felt lucky and with more determination and confidence, myself and good friends David and Kris hit the road and headed south, back to base. The first night of road-cruising was a success! We found several Puff Adder and Horseshoe Whip Snakes! Already within the first night this trip was considerably better than the last. That same night, on foot - walking carefully down a creek - a large female Puff Adder showed herself. This snake was true to it’s name... ‘puffing’ so loudly, striking uncontrollably, it was a dangerous snake. It would rear up and take flight (literally!) when striking, mouth wide open with huge fangs on show! As the week went on, Puff Adders, Desert Horned Vipers and Horseshoe Whip Snakes were all found in abundance, but unfortunately still no cobra. Two Moorish Vipers were nice additions to the trips portfolio, they were a lucky find on a high mountain road just north of Assa, we were on route back from photographing Desert Horned Vipers when Kris we spotted them.

Cobras were proving to be tough work and as the end of the trip loomed, it came down to the last day and night to have one last go at finding at least one. Still hopeful as ever we headed out one last time. It started positive, with yet again, several Puff Adders. With an early flight the next morning, there wasn’t much time left and as it neared the end of my trip it was almost time to head back to the hotel to pack up my belongings. Just as we were about to leave for the hotel, a gorgeous juvenile Moroccan Black Cobra emerged from the side of the road. I instantly knew what it was and leaped out of the car with joy. It was stunning. Just as I suspected, it was such a relief. To finally be face-to-face with the one snake that had been avoiding me for two trips was a good feeling and an excellent way to round off a highly successful trip! The absolute happiness of photographing a species you’ve worked hard to find is a feeling that cannot be beaten. Your heart races, you smile from ear-to-ear and you’re in your ‘happy place’ for those few moments, but those few moments are treasured forever and I will never forget seeing that cobra appear on the road!