Wildlife adventurer Nigel Marven’s latest expedition brings him up close and personal with the world’s deadliest serpents
When he was just a boy of eight, Nigel Marven was running a colony of hamsters. This was followed by a phase where he raced stick insects on his mother’s clothesline, and kept a caiman, a magpie, and boa constrictors at home. British naturalist, wildlife television presenter and author, Marven, now 55, lives in South Africa, and thrives on the high his many adventures bring him.
He’s studied the penguins of South Georgia, the giant Burmese pythons in Florida and, among other things, also deduced if the piranhas truly deserve their oh-so-bloodthirsty reputation.Accompanied by scientists and local guides, Marven has taken on the world’s most lethal snakes across India, Malaysia, Australia and more. Before the premiere of Deadliest Snakes with Nigel Marven, he lets us in on his travels across the Western Ghats, Tamil Nadu, and the Andaman Islands.
The show is a celebration of venomous snakes, shares Marven, who came to India first about 30 years ago, to film the Nag Panchmi festival in Maharashtra, after which followed vacations to Goa, and Kaziranga National Park (to see the great one-horned rhino).
“Cobras are famous in India, though the one that causes the most trouble is the Russell’s viper. This viper is always camouflaged, and can be irritable. It can strike even if a person just passes by – almost every country has a snake like that – in South Africa it is the puff adder,” he shares. “I’m particularly fond of what we found in Europe – the Ottoman viper – the only snake that’s been used in biological warfare,” he says. In a sea battle, a Carthaginian commander called Hannibal filled pots with these vipers, and catapulted them onto enemy ships, where the snakes slithered out. “The enemy got so scared, they turned their ships around,” shares the naturalist who shares his home with Bleaky, a burrowing owl he calls a “feathered cat.”
Elaborating on unforgettable experiences, he talks about spotting the yellow-lipped sea krait on the Andaman Islands. “They specialise in catching eels and have an incredibly toxic venom. I know that these beautiful black and white snakes don’t usually bite, I also know that they have enough venom to easily kill 20 men. It was incredible when one of these sea kraits came up to my nose, flicked its tongue out and licked the tip of my nose,” he shares, adding that the hiss of the King Cobra is something he can never, ever forget.
Premiers on October 5, on Animal Planet, at 9 pm.