The 10 Largest Snakes in Africa

Written by Brandi Allred
Updated: June 5, 2022
Image Credit © Dylan Leonard, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)
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Key Points

  • The top three include the black mamba, the African rock python, and the Egyptian cobra.
  • Carpet vipers are one of the deadliest snakes in Africa.
  • African rock pythons are strong constrictors, and the largest adults can weigh up to 200 pounds.

Snakes are one of the most feared reptiles in the world; they’re right up there with crocodiles and komodo dragons for many people. But, most snakes aren’t aggressive, and would rather hide than fight. And it’s not just little snakes that flee humans either, big snakes would rather be left alone too. Here, we’ll take a closer look at ten of the largest snakes in Africa. 

Some of the largest snakes in Africa inhabit the trees or the ground, some are venomous, and some are constrictors. And while most of these reptiles are antisocial and skittish, not often encountering people, there’s one snake on this list that’s not afraid to pick a fight.

10. Carpet Viper (Echis Pyramidum)

egyptian carpet viper
The carpet viper is also known as the northeast African carpet viper or the Egyptian saw-scaled viper.

Vladislav T. Jirousek/Shutterstock.com

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Carpet vipers grow to a maximum length of three feet. But despite their relatively small size, they’re responsible for more deaths than almost any other snake in Africa. Like other members of the viper family, carpet vipers have extremely potent venom. They have large, yellow eyes and sand-colored bodies marked by darker brown splotches.

9. Puff Adder (Bitis arietans)

puff adder in aggressive pose
The puff adder lives in grassy savannahs across much of Africa.

iStock.com/EcoPic

It may not be one of the largest snakes in Africa, but the puff adder occasionally grows to an admirable six feet long. Most puff adders don’t exceed four feet though. Like the carpet viper, they’re highly venomous and responsible for many snakebites. Puff adders are heavy snakes, with diamond markings across their bodies.

8. Cape Cobra (Naja nivea)

Most deadly snake bites - Cape Cobra
The cape cobra is also known as the yellow cobra or brown cobra.

Martin Prochazkacz/Shutterstock.com

One of the smaller members of the cobra family, the cape cobra grows up to six feet long. Like other species of cobra, they have wide neck hoods made of flattened ribs. They range in color from yellow to brown, often with darker-colored necks and hoods. Cape cobras live in southern Africa, where they eat just about anything they can find, even carrion.

7. Boomslang (Dispholidus typus)

boomslang slithering on branch
The boomslang is so named for its arboreal habits; in Dutch and Afrikaans, ‘boomslang’ means ‘tree snake’.

iStock.com/FroeMic

These aren’t the largest snakes in Africa, but for tree-dwelling snakes, they’re very large. Boomslangs grow up to six feet long, with bright green coloration and large eyes. They’re extremely venomous, though bites to humans are rare. They can be found in sub-Saharan Africa in forested areas. Boomslangs’ diets consist primarily of other reptiles, birds, and bird eggs, as well as small mammals.

6. Gaboon Viper (Bitis gabonica)

Gaboon viper on the ground
The gaboon viper has the longest fangs of all venomous snakes; they can grow up to two inches long.

Stu Porter/Shutterstock.com

These snakes may not be the longest in Africa, but they are some of the heaviest. Gaboon vipers reach a maximum length of around five feet but weigh upwards of 25 pounds. They’re entirely terrestrial, making their home in forested areas among leaf litter. Gaboon vipers have highly toxic venom, but bites to people rarely occur. They’re found in rainforests and wooded areas throughout much of Africa.

5. Black Necked Spitting Cobra (Naja nigricollis)

Per their name, the black necked spitting cobra has the ability to spit venom over ten feet away with accuracy.

Scott Delony/Shutterstock.com

One of the largest snakes in Africa, the black necked spitting cobra can reach up to seven feet in length. Their backs and sides are entirely black in color, with yellow-orange undersides reaching to the neck. The neck, however, is entirely black, and the inside of the mouth is cottony white.

Black necked spitting cobras have a wide distribution across most of central Africa. They thrive in a variety of habitats ranging from rainforests to scrublands and semi-desert lands.

4. Green Mamba (Dendroaspis angusticeps)

black mamba vs green mamba
Few African snakes possess the vibrant coloring, and highly toxic venom, of the green mamba.

iStock.com/through-my-lens

The green mamba grows to a maximum length of around seven feet long. They’re exceptionally thin snakes that spend most of their time in the trees. In consequence, they’re rarely seen by humans until it’s too late to avoid a bite. As its name suggests, the green mamba has a bright green body, with no discernable markings or patterning.

Green mambas live in only a few areas of coastal southern and eastern Africa. They spend most of their lives in the trees.

3. Egyptian Cobra (Naja haje)

Egyptian cobra on a log
The Egyptian cobra possesses a large hood. Cobra hoods are actually made of flattened ribs.

Stu Porter/Shutterstock.com

They may not be the biggest, but Egyptian cobras are certainly one of the largest snakes in Africa. Adults can reach over eight feet long, though the average length is closer to five feet, and weigh up to 20 pounds. They’re easily recognized by their dark brown or black color and wide hoods.

Egyptian cobras live in disjunctive areas in northern and central Africa. They’re common in agricultural fields and near sources of water. 

2. Black Mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis)

Biggest Snakes: The Black Mamba
The black mamba is the longest venomous snake in Africa.

Cormac Price/Shutterstock.com

One of Africa’s most famous, and feared, snakes, the black mamba grows to a maximum length of nearly 15 feet. They have slender bodies, with narrow heads, black eyes, and gray to yellow or brown coloring. Black mambas actually get their name from the black coloring inside their mouths. 

These snakes live in sub-Saharan Africa and prefer arid habitats like scrublands or rocky hillsides. And though they don’t live very close to people, they are highly aggressive, with the ability to stand up tall to deliver a venomous strike.

1. African Rock Python (Python sebae)

African rock python in the water
African rock pythons are huge, but they still aren’t the biggest snake in the world.

zaferkizilkaya/Shutterstock.com

The largest snake in Africa is the African rock python. These hulking reptiles can reach 20 feet in length, though most don’t exceed 15 feet. As members of the python family, African rock pythons lack venom, relying instead on their heavy bodies and strong muscles to constrict prey when they need a meal. While most adults weigh 60-75 pounds, the largest weigh up to 200 pounds.

African rock pythons are yellow with dark brown blotches and long, pointed heads. They live primarily in sub-Saharan Africa. Their preferred habitats include grasslands, forested areas, savannas, and rocky or semi-arid regions. They’re most likely to be found around water sources like lakes, rivers, and marshes.

10 Largest Snakes in Africa Summary

RankNameSize
#1African Rock Python (Python sebae)Up to 20 feet and 20 pounds
#2Black Mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis)Up to 15 feet long
#3Egyptian Cobra (Naja haje)Up to 8 feet and 20 pounds
#4Green Mamba (Dendroaspis angusticeps)Up to 7 feet long
#5Black Necked Spitting Cobra (Naja nigricollis)Up to 7 feet long
#6Gaboon Viper (Bitis gabonica)Up to 5 feet and 25 pounds
#7Boomslang (Dispholidus typus)Up to 6 feet long
#8Cape Cobra (Naja nivea)Up to 6 feet long
#9Puff Adder (Bitis arietans)Up to 6 feet long
#10Carpet Viper (Echis Pyramidum)Up to 3 feet long

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