Discover creepy wildlife at the Kartong Reptile Farm, Gambia
(Please note that this post contains photos of live snakes).
If you want to check out some of the more unusual Gambia wildlife, a day trip south to the Kartong Reptile Farm is well worth the effort.
Located around 1 hour south of the Serrekunda coastal strip, Kartong Snake Farm lies just north of the village of Kartong, close to the South Senegal border. The farm can be easily combined with other day trips in the area, such as the fishing village.
Despite the name, the “farm” is actually a research centre devoted to observing reptiles including snakes and tortoises. A large part of its purpose is also to educate local people about the snakes they encounter, with the aim of reducing fear.
What is the purpose of the Kartong Reptile Farm?
Although the Gambia does have venomous snakes, none have quick-acting venom, and a bite will take 12+ hours to cause serious damage. Gambia’s small size means that nobody is more than a few hours away from medical treatment; whilst bites are serious, therefore, they do not need to be life-threatening.
Large numbers of snakes are killed each year by people acting out of fear. The centre staff hope that, by educating school groups and adults about the reality of these reptiles, they will be less likely to kill creatures which have a valuable place in the local ecosystem.
The park is open from roughly 08:30 to 17:30 daily, but call ahead on +220 779 5008 to avoid disappointment.
The park has a wide variety of snakes, from tiny (but venomous) varieties to larger pythons and everything in between. Smaller snakes live in high-sided concrete pits; guides remove them carefully for you to take a closer look. The larger pythons are in caged enclosures; it is possible to handle the non-poisonous snakes (under expert guidance).
The park is also home to a number of other Gambia animals, including tortoises, small crocodiles and monitor lizards.
Safety and ethics
As stated, although the Park is called a “farm”, it is in fact a research and education centre. I saw no evidence of any form of snake or reptile farming during my visit.
Snakes are kept in solid enclosures, and the more dangerous in secure cages. It is only possible for visitors to hold the non-venomous snakes, and you will be well-supervised at all times.
Facilities and refreshments
Toilet facilities are available, and there is also a bar area selling soft drinks.
How to get here
The Reptile Farm is located on the Kombo Coastal Road, between the villages of Gunjur and Kartong, approximately 1 hour south of the main Serrekunda tourist area. It is included on many Gambia excursions, including those offered by Gambia Tours.