Jaw-Dropping ‘Snake Tree’ Pic Shows Photographer Surrounded by Venomous Serpents

by Emily Morgan
Photo by: ullstein bild / Contributor

We have a new image showing venomous sea snakes stunningly surround a photographer in a remote area of Fiji. The snap is one of the pics chosen for the 58th Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition.

The new exhibition includes 100 images that judges selected from more than 38,000 entries across 93 countries. It consists of the winning photos chosen by the judges. Wildlife Photographer of the Year is also developed and produced by the NHM.

Among the top images in the “Behaviour: Amphibians and Reptiles” category is one photograph called “the Snake Tree.” The photo was caught by German photographer Juergen Freund in Vaturova, Vanua Levu, Fiji.

Freund captured the picture while on assignment for WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) to photograph Fiji’s Great Sea Reef. The reef is the third-largest barrier reef in the world.

However, instead of the reef, he shot a much more peculiar image. It depicts dozens of banded sea kraits, a type of venomous snake. The snakes were shot while at a mangrove tree in the sea.

“I had been working with sea kraits and sea snakes for many years and particularly love banded sea kraits,” Freund told news outlets.

The day he snapped the picture, he had been on a boat. He was going from island to island, documenting the culture, wildlife, and fishing in Fiji.

Photographer captures award-winning snake photo while diving at Fiji reef

After spending his morning diving in an area of the Great Sea Reef, Freund started heading back to land. Then, his local dive guide told him, “Oh, there’s a sole mangrove tree in the middle of the sea not far from the island that, at low tide, has sea kraits resting on the mangrove tree roots.”

Immediately interested, Freund knew it was low tide and decided to head to the mangrove tree.

“Our boat driver had a discussion first as they were hungry and never liked going near the snakes,” he said. “But we were able to see this amazing congregation of sea snakes swimming in from all around the lone mangrove, slithering up the tree for some sort of siesta while the tide was low.”

In a statement to the NHM, Freund said that the snakes were “swimming all over him.”

“The conditions were perfect as I could stand on the sandy bottom with the water just chest deep and could shoot my split-level images with not much difficulty as the water was calm and my subjects were all around me,” he said.

Natalie Cooper, who is a principal researcher at the NHM and judge for the photography competition, said images like this which are split across water and air, are challenging to capture successfully.