Les Serpents du Congo (The Snake Park)

The three vipers, headed our way

The three vipers, headed our way

“Now, these are some of the most venomous snakes in the world,” Franck explained nonchalantly as he pulled three vipers (including the Gaboon viper, which has the longest fangs and highest venom yield of all poisonous snakes) from their homes and plopped them on the ground. He drew a line, a bit too close for our comfort, and told us not to step beyond it.

We watched as they slowly inched their way toward us (the way they move is really quite bizarre), and we were starting to overcome our fear when, suddenly, the phone rang and Franck stepped away to take a call.

Though the snakes never made it past the line, or even anywhere near it, we all let out a sigh of relief when he placed them back in their barrels. Les Serpents du Congo is UNIKIN’s anti-venom center, creating all the anti-venom for Kinshasa area (and unfortunately, since it’s the only one in Congo, Kinshasa is the only place where anti-venom is available.)  The center rivals the bonobos for its professionalism and provides a stark contrast to the zoo.

Franck, showing off the gaboon viper.

Franck, showing off the gaboon viper.

It is a really interesting educational experience to get to see the snakes, both poisonous and non, and learn more about them.  All of the snakes there are indigenous to the DRC and many were originally found along the river near some of the other places on our bucket list like Chez Tin Tin. Who knew that the Congo is home to water cobras? So swim with care.  At the park you to see mambas, cobras, vipers, and more.  Mr. Franck Nsingi, who gives the tours and runs the facility, is engaging and knowledgeable.  You also get the chance to hold some of the non-venomous snakes which is a lot of fun.

James overcomes his fear of snakes (maybe).

James overcomes his fear of snakes (maybe).

The center recently moved from its previous location in Ngaliema to off the road to Lac de Ma Vallée/the Bonobos. It’s situated on a farm, and the drive (or walk if you have time) down to the crocodiles is really beautiful. Yep, there are crocodiles, too. It’s good to have at least one Francophone person in your party so that you can understand all the really detailed information that Franck provides. FYI, you can call Franck if you find a snake at your house, and he will come and take it away.  (You should put a bucket or something on top of it in the meantime.)

Logistics:

When to Go: You can go any time of year, but it you need to call ahead to make an appointment; otherwise Franck may not be there.

How to Get There: Take the Matadi Road to the Bypass Triangle (the road seems to split left and right, there’s an Engen in the center), continue on the Matadi Road past the triangle, take the first left (there’s a big billboard in the center of the turn), take the first right (there are signs for Lac de Ma Vallée), take the first paved road to the left after about 2 km (towards quartier SEBO), take the first right and follow that road to the end (to Ferme SOGENAK “Ex SEBO”).

Travel Time: Depending on traffic, 45 minutes to 1 hour from Gombe.

Risk Assessment: Other than all the poisonous snakes, les Serpents du Congo is a pretty tame outing. The last little bit of road isn’t paved, but I’m not sure how bad it get when it rains, so you may want to keep that in mind.

Contact Info: Franck Nsingi – 082 362 0634 or 089 946 0477 – you must call ahead to make an appointment

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