Off the coast of Brazil, there is a beautiful island, with tropical weather, rainforests and great coastline. It’s too bad no one can ever go there. It’s no off-limits to keep it beautiful, but rather because the island, known as Ilha da Queimada Grande, is infested with thousands upon thousands of snakes. And not just any snakes, the worst kind of snakes. The ones that if they bite you, chances are, you’ll be calling it quits. Snake Island has so many interesting and scary facts behind it that it’s hard to tell what is real and what is a myth. But the truth is, real or fake stories, we would prefer not to know about them, as Snake Island is definitely being crossed off the ‘must travel’ list.
Most people prefer sand around their feet on vacation, not slithering snakes, so Snake Island is not a place to visit, and in fact, it’s not legal to go there without permission, making it, even more, scarier than you originally thought. Check out these things to know about Snake Island and realize quickly that literally, any other destination is better than this one for a holiday trip. Get ready for a really bad case of Ophidiophobia.
25 There Are Thousands Of Snakes (duh)
It is estimated that there are over 2,000 to 4,000 Golden Lancehead vipers on the island of Ilha da Queimada Grande, according to the Smithsonian. When you can use the term ‘infested’ to talk about a snake population, that’s a lot of snakes on one island. Normally that term is used to talk about bugs or at worse, mice, but to have an island infested with venomous snakes, it’s no wonder the island doesn’t see too many people going over every year.
24 One Hour To Survive
The Golden Lancehead viper is known as one of the deadliest snakes in the world, and according to the Smithsonian, the venom in the snake can be fatal in an hour if you were to get bitten. That doesn’t leave a lot of time to get to safety if you were to get bit, and with Ilha da Queimada Grande being 90 kilometers off the coast of Brazil, it would take a very fast boat to make it back to shore and to a hospital in time.
23 People Did Live There
On the island, there is a lighthouse and someone had to man the lighthouse, so according to the Smithsonian, in the early 1900s, there would be a lighthouse keeper on the island to keep it running. As legend would have it, the last one and his family didn’t make it off, as it’s thought that snakes got into his home through open windows. It’s scary to think someone would live on the island, and even worse, be afraid of what is outside all the time.
22 The Viper's Home
The Golden Lancehead viper calls the island of Ilha da Queimada Grande their only home, as that specific type of snake is only found on that specific island, according to the Smithsonian. That’s at least some good knows for us, as we don’t have to think about this venomous snake slithering up to us, especially when on a trip to Brazil and looking to relax on a beach. And good to know that if you just avoid the island, you can avoid the snakes altogether.
21 Not The Only Snakes On The Island
While the Golden Lancehead snake is the most dangerous tenant on the island and has the greatest numbers, they aren’t the only snakes that call it home, as another specifies, Dipsas albifrons, also are on the island. According to the Reptile Database, the common name for this snake is the Sauvage's Snail-eater, who are non-venomous and live in the rainforest. They eat, as their name suggests, snails and other smaller bugs, but on an island of thousands of snakes, what you don’t want to hear is that there are even more than you originally thought.
20 They Are Long Snakes
The Golden Lancehead viper can grow over half a meter in length, according to Buzzfeed. When you consider that there is a snake on the island for every square meter, it’s not something you want to visualize. It may not be the longest snake in the world by far, as cobras and pythons are longer, but when you factor in the number of them on the island, half a meter in length might as well be 10 meters. Would you prefer one really big snake or thousands of little ones?
19 Pirates Are Responsible
Another legend that is passed around Brazil about how the snakes got there has to do with pirates. According to Business Insider, the story is that pirates buried their treasure on the island and to keep it safe, they put the venomous snakes on the island, so no one could take it. Now logic would say if they put that many snakes on an island to stop people from stealing, what is stopping the snakes from striking them when they come back to retrieve it? I don’t think the pirates put that much thought into that plan.
18 The Snakes can't swim (phew!)
It shouldn’t be much of a surprise, but the snakes are isolated on the island because, well, they are on an island. According to the Smithsonian, over 11,000 years ago, the sea levels rose enough to isolate Ilha da Queimada Grande from the mainland of Brazil, leaving the species of snake alone on the island to evolve into what they have become today. They have evolved to become five times more venomous than their mainland brothers, so at least for our sake, they remain isolated.
17 Venom Can Melt Skin
The Golden Lancehead's venom is so powerful, that according to the Smithsonian, it is five times more venomous than mainland snakes, and it can melt human skin on contact, as that is how the snakes hunt for food. So it’s a good thing people don’t visit the island that often, as these snakes could really do a number of a human being who isn’t well protected and getting a little too close for comfort. Melting skin is straight out of a horror film.
16 Snakes Have No Predators
The snake population grew rapidly on the island because, unfortunately, there are no known predators for the Golden Lancehead snake, according to the Smithsonian. With venom that strong, it would take a lot to take one of the snakes down, and if any animals were on the island, chances are they didn’t make it off. Even birds know to avoid the island all costs, because of the massive population of snakes just waiting for them down below. That leaves humans, but humans don’t visit the island.
15 The whole Island Is Outlawed
Brazil has actually outlawed going to the island, due to the large venomous snake population on the island and the risk of something very bad happening if they were to go there. According to the Smithsonian, the Brazilian government strictly controls visits to Ilha da Queimada Grande, only allowing a few scientists each year a chance to go over and study the snakes. It probably wouldn’t be on the top of most tourists lists anyway, even if the island looks like a beautiful place to go.
14 Must have a Doctor On Call
If Brazil does give people permission to go to the island, they are required to take a doctor with them, according to the Smithsonian. Just in case there is a run-in with the Golden Lancehead viper, the Brazilian government wants to make sure there is someone there to take care of the person who is bitten. That’s not really a place you want to visit when it’s required to take a doctor with you for your own safety. And if movies have taught us anything, it’s that the doctor will probably be the first one to get bitten.
13 There is a 3% Chance Of lasting
The reason a doctor is required is that it increases a person’s chances of living if they get bitten. A bite from a golden lancehead viper carries with it a seven percent chance of not living, and even with medical treatment, there is a three percent chance of not living, as the venom can cause failure of kidneys, damage muscle tissue or cause problems in the brain. The easiest way to survive is to simply avoid the island and have a 100 percent chance of living.
12 A Snake A Meter
The population has grown so much that according to the Smithsonian, it is said that there is one snake for every one square meter of land on Ilha da Queimada Grande. Considering the island is 430,000 square meters, that’s a lot of snakes. Basically, you can’t walk a step without seeing another snake. Knowing that there is a very venomous snake every square meter isn’t really something we need to know about, as even knowing there is one snake on the island is scary enough, let alone, one per square meter.
11 Their Cousins Bite, A lot
The Golden Lancehead viper is only found on Ilha da Queimada Grande, but they aren’t the only type of lancehead in Brazil. In fact, the Lancehead snakes account for 90 percent of snake bites in Brazil, according to the Smithsonian. It’s why scientists are studying the golden version, to see how the Lancehead evolved and how to hopefully prevent the number of snake bites their cousin does on the mainland. So that is something to think of when going to Brazil, to watch out for the snakes that bite a lot.
10 The Island Has A Black Market
When something is rare, someone is always willing to buy it. And for that reason, smugglers go to the island and trap snakes and sell them on the black market, according to the Smithsonian. The snakes can go from anywhere between $10,000 to $30,000. There is a lot of risks to go to the island to get them, but even more scary to think that this snake could repopulate in another area if the buyer isn’t careful, making the isolated snake a mainland problem.
9 The Real Name Is Just As Scary
While most people call it Snake Island, the real name of the island is, in fact, Ilha da Queimada Grande, which roughly translates in Portuguese to Slash and Burn Fire or Big Burnt Island. It already doesn’t sound like a place anyone would want to go to, even if you took out all the snakes. No one is booking a trip to an island resort called ‘Slash and Burn Fire’, and add on thousands of snakes, that’s more than enough to scare anyone away from going there.
8 Failed Plantation
The reason the island is named Slash and Burn Fire is that that is what was done to it in order to try and prepare it to be a plantation for growing, according to Business Insider. A banana plantation, in fact, was supposed to grow out of the rainforest, but the failed attempt left the island with a pretty unique name, Ilha da Queimada Grande, and interesting story. It’s still creepy either way you look at it. An island named after fire, slashing and burning, or an island named after snakes. There is no winning there.
7 Snakes Are Endangered
It might actually surprise you that the Golden Lancehead viper is actually considered an endangered animal to the Brazilian government, according to the Smithsonian, and because of that, and the obvious danger of people going onto the island, they take great care in making sure humans don’t interfere in their life. A very poisonous snake needs protection from the government, isn’t something you thought you would hear about an island of snakes that have the power to do great harm to people with one bite.
6 Two Tales Are Scary
We have already told you the story of the lighthouse owner and his family who didn’t make it off the island when a snake got into their home, but that is just one of two myths and stories that come from Snake Island that will scare you. The other, according to the Smithsonian, is that of a fisherman whose boat wandered off course and he landed on the island. As he tried to pick bananas, a snake struck from the trees. As he tried to run back to his boat, he was bitten numerous times because, well, one snake for every square meter will do that. But those are only stories, but stories generally start from somewhere and are passed down.
5 The Island Is Beautiful
If you were to be boating around Snake Island, you wouldn’t think it is infested with thousands of snakes. In fact, it looks like the perfect place to anchor your boat and head to the beach or into the rainforest. It has a temperate climate and is just off the coast of Brazil, with temperatures ranging from 19 degrees Celsius in August to 28 degrees Celsius in March. It would be easy to mistake it for any other tropical island, so just be careful you don’t accidentally find yourself running up on shore and taking a walk into the wrong forest.
4 Need Navy Permission
So do you still want to go to Snake Island after reading this? Well to do so, you would need the permission of the Brazilian Navy, who patrols the area of the island and keeps people off it, according to Atlas Obscura. It is possible to get a local to take you out there in a boat, but the danger is so much that not many locals are lining up to take that trip. The Navy only allows so many people a year and they make sure the lighthouse is still active with regular maintenance.
3 Birds Are Prey
In case of Snake Island, it isn’t birds of prey, but rather, they are the prey, as the Golden Lancehead Viper’s diet consists mainly of birds that are migrating and stopping at the island to rest, according to Business Insider. The snakes hide out in the trees of the rainforest and wait for the birds to come and then strike. Their venom has to work fast because the birds can simply fly away, and the snakes wouldn’t be able to track them. So that is why, over time, their venom has evolved as much as it has.
2 Venom Can Be Helpful
Do you need some good news? Scientists have said that the venom of the Golden Lancehead can be used to make medicine, according to VICE. A study done has shown that the venom can be used for pharmaceutical purposes, giving more of a reason to study the snakes and see if their venom can help, as the Golden Lancehead's venom has already shown promise in helping with heart disease, circulation and blood clots. At least there is something good out of it, except someone has to go get the snake venom to make the medicine, so I hope you aren’t relying on it.
1 It has earned The Title
Snake Island, or Ilha da Queimada Grande, definitely earned the name Snake Island, but it is also called the deadliest island in the world, according to the Smithsonian, VICE and Business Insider, as all the facts combined make it too dangerous to travel to. What part of the most venomous snakes in the world every meter you step makes you want to travel to the island? It’s only 90 kilometers off the coast, so if you dare, and can slip past the navy, maybe you can see if it lives up to the name. If you make it home that is.
Sources: smithsonian.com; buzzfeed; VICE; Business Insider