this is kukenan, the tepui that greeted us when we arrived at the first camp site on our 6 day trek up the larger roraima
tepui. we had been walking all afternoon and were hot, sweaty and thirsty by the time we arrived. our guide pointed out a river close by where we could fill up our water bottles, and a little bit downstream, bathe and cool off. i wasted no time in changing into my swimming shorts and jumping in the river. the current was a little strong but it was nice and refreshing to dip your head under and cool off. there were a few leaves floating around which without thinking i picked up and threw to the side. i saw a small twig floating behind me and i was about to do the same when it started to move independent of the water. it was then that i realised that the stick was black and red, squiggly and far more serpentine than your average piece of wood. i swam faster than i ever have before and pulled myself out of the water, too scared to even yelp, as the snake continued its carefree swim. i returned to the campsite and relayed my harrowing experience to the guide who said that based on my description it was most likely a coral snake. when i asked if they posed any danger he told me that they came in both venomous and non-venomous varieties. so how can you tell the difference?
was my inevitable follow up. you can't
was the answer i didn't want to hear, unless you study them at a close distance they look almost identical. hopefully you'll understand why i didn't remain floating long enough to make an accurate classification.
here's the original