S'pore photographers spent nights on Pulau Ubin to find 'super rare' venomous banded krait

Forbidden zebra crossing.

Zi Shan Kow | January 10, 2024, 02:11 PM



A group of photographers in Singapore spent nights searching for an elusive nocturnal creature.

After chartering after-hours ferry rides to Pulau Ubin and staying on the island overnight, they finally found their target on Jan. 5, 2024.

Visits to Pulau Ubin

Photographer Prashanta Kumar Mohanty told Mothership he loves snakes, and the "super rare" banded krait in Singapore has a particularly unique black-and-white pattern.

He recalled coming across news of an individual spotted by a jogger at Pasir Ris Park in April last year.

"After seeing the news I was so amazed by this and want[ed] to see one in person," said Prashanta.

Despite visiting Pulau Ubin once every few months to search for the snake, it was fruitless.

Then, on the night of Jan. 5, his real life encounter left him speechless.

"Can’t describe in words. Top of the world. One must see it in person as no words can describe its beauty."

It was a dream come true for him.

Photo courtesy of Prashanta Kumar Mohanty/Facebook.

Photo courtesy of Prashanta Kumar Mohanty/Facebook.

Photo courtesy of Prashanta Kumar Mohanty/Facebook.

Photo courtesy of Prashanta Kumar Mohanty/Facebook.

Photo courtesy of Prashanta Kumar Mohanty/Facebook.

Not by luck

The encounter was not by luck, shared Daryl Tan, who was also part of the group of six photographers that night.

Tan revealed to Mothership that Pulau Ubin appeared to be the "most consistent" location that the reptile has been spotted in, and each visit that was made there was carefully planned out.

They took into account tidal patterns, as the hypothesis was that higher tides will flood the mangrove areas and push the snake closer to the paths.

Twice they visited and searched from 9pm until around sunrise. Both trips were in vain.

The photographers planned their subsequent visit by studying the weather patterns, as it seemed that kraits are more likely to emerge during wet weather.


"Conditions were superb as it rained that evening and everywhere was wet," said Tan.

The six photographers split up to cover more ground.

An hour into the walk, they received a phone call from one of the others in the group, who said: "Krait!"

They wasted no time and hurried over from the other side of the island.

Though he was not the one to spot it, Tan was excited to "see and photograph something as beautiful as the krait." He recounted:

"There was the sense of awe at being in the presence of something so venomous but yet so calm. It could have caused us a lot of pain with one bite, killed us even, but it just lay peacefully on the side of the road."

Photo courtesy of J K Tan Daryl/Facebook.

Photo courtesy of J K Tan Daryl/Facebook.

The photographer who spotted it shared that his group had already walked past the spot the krait was spotted, but a nagging feeling that he had missed something made him turn back.

He was right, of course, as the juvenile banded krait emerged from the vegetation by the side of the road and just slithered onto the road.

Tan also felt relief, as the discovery marked the end of their arduous quest to find it.

"We always stepped foot on Ubin all buzzing with excitement, but leaving the island exhausted and dejected," added Tan.

Each trip ate away at their motivation and they found themselves more reluctant to commit to another trip, but their desire and passion to see the animal pulled them through each time.

"And that was how we bagged our top target of the year," said Tan.

Banded krait

The banded krait is a coastal snake widely found across Southeast Asia. Only seen at night, it is one of seven venomous snakes in Singapore, and a particularly difficult species to find.

It has alternating black and white bands of equal lengths on its body, and the first black band on its body and the black patch on its head form a V-shape together.

The cross-section of its body is also, interestingly, shaped like a triangle.

Its head is broad and depressed, and its tail ends in a nub that mimics its head, to fool predators into attacking it instead.

Image courtesy of J K Tan Daryl/Facebook.

The banded krait is highly venomous, but will not bite if unprovoked.

It will hide its head under the coils of its body when it feels threatened.

Image courtesy of J K Tan Daryl/Facebook.

It mainly consumes lizards and other snakes, as well as other small vertebrates.

The snake is listed as "Endangered" on the Red Data Book List of threatened species in Singapore.

More snakes in Singapore

Top image courtesy of J K Tan Daryl.