a side-striped palm viper

To me, this snake represents beauty, danger, and serendipity. The beauty of its colors, how it weaves itself into the foliage, how it waits with absolute patience. Danger in how it senses the heat of an animal, strikes in less time than a blink, injects deadly venom into its prey. The serendipity that put me in the right time and place to take this photo.


A Side-striped Palm Viper in Monteverde, Costa Rica.

The Side-striped Palm Viper, one of Costa Rica’s 23 poisonous snakes. Click to enlarge.


The Story:

Exhausted after hiking in the Cloud Forest since early morning, I boarded the last bus of the day. It was due to depart in five minutes. Missing it would have cost me a 2-hour trek home.

As I took a seat, a stranger asked if I’d seen the nearby palm viper. I had not. We bounded out of the bus, and he led me quickly several hundred feet uphill, where he pointed to a small tree. I stared for a full minute before realizing this snake was just a few feet from my face. I took a single photo. We turned around and made it back to the bus with only seconds to spare.

When I was a child, I was cautioned to avoid snakes, not to talk to strangers and not to rush into things. Fortunately, I ignored all three of those warnings.