"Water Cobra"

Kalambo Lodge & Chitili, Zambia


Left: Zambian southeastern shore of Lake Tanganyika with main locations indicated


Above: Kalambo Lodge and cichlid farm, and Chitili village

Locations for OBA film 4:3
Lake Tanganyika
(click on maps to enlarge)

Our base for the film was to be Kalambo Lodge (aka Kalambo Falls Lodge) on the eastern Zambian shore of Lake Tanganyika andwell situated for all our planned locations in Zambia and Tanzania, many of which could only be reached by boat. Unfortunately it seems the Kalambo Lodge is currently closed.

The Lodge, and its associated fish farm, were run by Toby Veall, a British cichlid collector, breeder and exporter, and its position on the lake shore made it a mecca for wildlife and wildlife enthusiasts, both above and below the water surface (40 species of cichlids are reported from its immediate vicinity). Snakes, lizards, monkeys and bushbabies all haunted the shoreline vegetation.

Kalambo Lodge was very comfortable with smart African style chalets, and a good restuarant and bar, it was very pleasant staying there or returning from a tiring day on the lake to a cold Mosi beer.

The restaurant and bar are recognisable on approach from the lake and also from Google Earth The author's accomodation
(beware of kleoptomaniac monkeys)
The shore below the author's accomodation View of Lake Tanganyika from the author's accomodation


I discussed the search for the water cobra with myself and we both came to the conclusion it required two snakemen!


The nearest village to Kalambo Lodge was Chitili, a short walk along the shoreline to the south. Many of the lodge workers and Toby's fish collectors lived there and it was from here that we received our first snake reports.

Chitili village

A snake was reported on a hut roof in Chitili so we all hustled over there. Enroute a very large Puff adder (Bitis arietans arietans) was flushed from the long grass but so many people where simultaneously running from it and climbing onto rocks to see it that we missed the window of opportunity to capture it before it slid between some large rocks.

The snake in the village was a dead Olive sandsnake (Psammophis mossambicus) thrown onto the roof by a joker, but a search of Chitili did result in the capture of a Common spotted bushsnake (Philothamnus semivariegatus semivariegatus), the first of two captured near Kalambo Lodge. We also missed capturing a live Olive sandsnake in the Lodge compound.

Common spotted bushsnake, Philothamnus semivariegatus semivariegatus


During our stay at Kalambo Lodge we were called to Chitili several times for snakes and we filmed around the village. My snake catching abilities led the villagers calling me "Congolo" after a Congolese snake catcher and witch doctor who had passed through the area many years earlier. Michael Mbambiko (our doctor) said the locals believed I was the witch doctor returned in different form and everywhere I went I had a Pied Piperesque entourage.

Michael Mbambiko and Mark,
medical doctor and witch doctor respectively

The curious equipment carried by my companions also elicited interest, not least the sound-boom carried by Terry, the sound recordist. It was very difficult for him to get silence when he wanted to record a "wild track" with so many children huddled around him whispering.

Terry (sound) entraces the children


We did eventually get some interesting snakes from Chitili and the track to Kalambo Lodge, including two Puff adders, a Snouted night adder (Causus defilippi) that the locals swore was a juvenile puff adder, and a pair of Eastern barksnakes (Hemirhagerrhis nototaenia), also known as Mopane snakes after the southern African woodland that they often frequent (see Ongava Game Reserve, Namibia, for more information on Mopane woodland).

Puff adder, Bitis arietans arietans from Kalambo Lodge
Puff adder, Bitis arietans arietans from Chitili
Snouted night adder, Causus defilippi
Eastern barksnake or Mopane snake, Hemirhagerrhis nototaenia

The fangs of a Puff adder, Bitis arietans

Lizards around Kalambo Lodge included the African house gecko (Hemidactylus mabouia) and the Tuberculate thick-toed gecko (Elasmodactylus tuberculosus) and the Variable skink (Trachylepis varia). Toby also kept a couple of smallish Nile crocodiles (Crocodylus niloticus) in a small compound beneath the fish farm. Lake Tanganyika does have a crocodile population including a famous reported man-eater called Gustave, found far to the north in the Burundian part of the lake.


Variable skink, Trachylepis varia
African house gecko, Hemidactylus mabouia
Tuberculate thick-toed gecko, Elasmodactylus tuberulosus


Captive Nile crocodiles, Crocodylis niloticus



I wonder who gave him this t-shirt !