Courtney Allan

Travel Trouble

Snake Island: The real-life destination straight out of your nightmares

Snake Island: The real-life destination straight out of your nightmares

Snake Island is an island that’s about 33 kilometres off the coast of Brazil. It’s near Sao Paulo, and it’s so dangerous that humans are forbidden to go there.

Not that you’d want to. The Island is full to the brim with venomous snakes. They’re known as golden lancehead vipers, with venom so strong it can melt flesh.

Up to 4,000 of the golden lancehead vipers live on this island, which humans fled a century ago.

Brazilian authorities only give permission to a few scientists to visit the island each year, and there’s a naval patrol around the island to ensure no one else gets too close.

However, that hasn’t stopped 60 Minutes reporter Tara Brown from heading to the island.

Brown said she’s excited about adventure. She told news.com.au:

“I’m always excited about adventure and new destinations and this was sold as a pretty exciting one, and a unique opportunity to see a special habitat that’s highly protected,” Brown explained.

“Then I was told there were 4000 of some of the world’s most deadly snakes on the island.

“When we’re speaking to local fisherman, they told us, ‘That’s not a good idea, you don’t want to go there’. There are legends about a whole family being killed there, and of pirates burying treasure on the island and the snakes being put there to protect the treasure.

“The fishermen said they never went there, or they would die.”

There is said to be between one and five golden lanceheads per square metre on Snake Island. Brown encountered a few on her journey into the rainforest. She joined the scientists who are allowed to head onto the island.

“To my mind, there could be a snake anywhere and you’re always on high alert, and a big part of me was saying, ‘Oh no, please don’t let there be a snake there’,” Brown said of the journey.

As the snakes have been cut off from the mainland, they’ve had to evolve to survive.

Brown explained:

“They’re different to their mainland cousins in that they’re five times more venomous and they are among the top 10 most poisonous snakes in the world,” she said.

“They hunt and eat birds. Not the local birds, who have become too smart for them, but larger migratory birds, boobies, who come by on their migration. And the snakes’ venom has become more potent because their prey is bigger.

“It’s an incredibly interesting evolutionary experiment for scientists to observe. This is a laboratory in the wild, if you like. You see evolution at play.”

The scientists are interested in the venom of the golden lancehead viper, as it allows scientists to track the wellbeing of the snakes as well as help develop life saving medication.

“There’s a blood pressure medication (captopril) which was developed 40 years ago from the venom of lancehead vipers, which is an incredibly popular and widely used medicine today,” Brown said.

“While snakes are not naturally loveable to me, that doesn’t mean I don’t admire their resilience and how they respond to their environment,” she said.

“We’re seeing nature at play and there’s a wonderment to that. And they are quite beautiful — from a distance.”

Would you head to Snake Island? Let us know in the comments.