Nigel Marven: “Lewis Hamilton knows what to do with a Formula One car. I know how to dodge snakes”

In his new show, the reptile aficionado travels the globe looking for the most dangerous slithery creatures he can find. He offers advice on what to do if we ever find ourselves inches from one of these serpents...


“I used to watch Westerns to try to identify the rattlesnakes,” says snake-obsessed nature expert Nigel Marven.


“Lewis Hamilton knows what to do with a formula one car. I know how to dodge snakes,” he boldly claims.

“I’m absolutely not saying I can read their minds but I can see their behaviour and… I know how far they can strike or when they look like they’re likely to bite and all of those things.”

In his new Eden show Ten Deadliest Snakes (on 9pm tomorrow night), Marven travels to America, South Africa and Costa Rica to explore the reptile-rich jungles, deserts, mountains and swamps.

Marven gets up close to cobras, bushmasters, rattlesnakes and mambas, and manages to come out unscathed. Although, he hasn’t always been so lucky. Previously, a false water cobra locked its fangs into Marven’s hand:

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“It’s mildly venomous because it’s got an anticoagulant and when it bites me, it shoots for two minutes and you can see the blood running down my arm,” he explains.

“It was a throbbing pain for a few hours, but I carried on filming, so it really wasn’t a problem. However, I would absolutely not muck around with a truly venomous snake.”

Truly venomous snakes, like the ones on Marven’s new show, include the Terciepelo, known as the ultimate pit-viper; the diamondback rattler, which measures over two metres long and is as thick as a drainpipe; and the black mamba, which can kill an adult in 20 minutes.

The number one deadliest snake is the black mamba “everyone knows that,” says Marven, “they can spray accurately for three meters into the eyes of an attacker,” he continues. In one episode Marven puts on goggles and stands in the firing line of a Mozambique spitting cobra. The sequence is slowed down so we can see the venom spraying in slow motion.

To see it actually on the hooks spraying in all directions when it’s not on the ground hooded up is absolutely extraordinary,” says Marven. Were you not worried you would absorb some of the venom? We naively ask. But fearless Maven has been there and done that. “Twenty five years ago when I was a producer, I got cobra venom sprayed in my eyes in Africa,” he reveals, “I was blinded for two days.” He assures us that goggles are a good precaution in the face of a spitting cobra. “Just remember to shower afterwards,” he jokes.


“During the film, it was spraying so much, and I’m obviously talking to the camera, it filled my mouth with venom, which tastes like battery acid. I’ve never tasted battery acid, but I imagine that’s what it would taste like. It’s absolutely disgraceful, but as long as you haven’t got any cuts in your mouth, you can swallow venom, and it doesn’t cause any harm at all. You just digest it.”

What if we’re being strangled by a big constrictor like an anaconda or python, we ask. “You need one person for every meter of snake,” says Marven. “If a four meter snake gets you on your own, and it really wants to get you, which it doesn’t (they rarely attack people), you need four people to help.”

The best defence against a snake attack in the wild? “Don’t move,” says Marven. “You could be in an enclosure with a hundred snakes, and if you don’t move, the snakes don’t bite.”

Watch Ten Deadliest Snakes with Nigel Marvin, from 9pm, Thursday June 19, on Eden


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