Snake Island in Brazil, description and photos

Keimada Grandi Snake Island

Queimada Grande Snake Island (Ilha de Queimada Grande)

Queimada Grande Serpent Island is a small piece of land in the south of the Brazilian state of São Paulo, located in the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean. This elongated island is considered one of the most unfriendly and dangerous places on the planet. Queimada Grande is dominated by poisonous snakes and has the status of the largest natural serpentarium in the world.

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Video: Keimada Grandi Snake Island


Keimada Grandi Snake Island is 43 hectares in size and rises 200 meters above sea level. It is covered with lush vegetation and uninhabited. There are no hotels or restaurants, and only a lonely white lighthouse on the shore reminds us that the island was once inhabited. Brazilians are wary of Queimada Grande and call it “the island of death. Some hesitate to even go near its shores, let alone land on the island itself.

Keimada Grandi is home to one of the most venomous snakes on the planet, the island botrops or spearhead snake, which belongs to the viper family. The Keimada Grandi snake island area is literally teeming with reptiles, with a population of up to 5,000 individuals. It is noteworthy that the spearhead snakes live only on this Brazilian island, that is, they are endemics.

The Brazilian authorities gave this piece of land the status of a nature reserve and imposed an official ban on visiting the island for locals and tourists. However, even without this ban, there is no one who dares to risk his life for the sake of new impressions and experiences. The snake island of Keimada Grandi is considered one of the most unusual nature reserves on the planet, the history of which is covered with tragic legends and rumors.

Because of the real threat to life and health, travelers are only brought to shore, but are not dropped off on the island itself. In addition to tourist and pleasure boats, fishermen and divers can often be found near Keimada Grandi. Once a year, Brazilian servicemen land on the island to do lighthouse maintenance work.

Keimada Grandi Island Legends

There are many legends about the snake island of Queimada Grande. One of them tells of sea pirates who once landed on the green island in order to hide their treasure among the rocks. The pirates let some snakes loose on land to guard the treasure from strangers. Gradually, the snakes multiplied, took over the entire island and made it very dangerous for people.

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Another legend tells of a hapless fisherman, who, starving, docked on the shore to bask in the sun and eat exotic fruits. As soon as the fisherman set foot on the island, he was bitten by a poisonous snake. The unfortunate man only had enough strength to get to his boat, where he died. Then, when other fishermen passed by the island, they found the boat with the corpse swinging on the waves of the sea.

A third tale tells of the keeper of an island lighthouse and his family, consisting of his wife and three daughters. At night, while the people were sleeping soundly, many snakes entered their dwelling through the windows. The frightened caretaker and his loved ones fled in terror to the nearby forest, but were attacked by snakes and died from snake bites. Later, the military docked at the shore of the island and discovered their bodies. Since that time, the lighthouse on Queimada Grande has been remodeled and converted to automatic operation that does not require constant human presence.

Brazilian businessmen who wanted to establish banana plantations tried to settle the island. The workers hired by them tried to burn the forest and bushes, but the snakes bit the people and they had to leave for the mainland. In any case, victory on the snake island of Keimada Grandi was always for the reptiles.

Today, only herpetological scientists dare to visit these inhospitable places, but they also have to be very careful and take all safety measures to avoid snake bites. The Brazilian government requires that each scientific expedition must have a doctor who can provide medical assistance to the injured.

The venom of spearhead snakes is so strong that it can dissolve human flesh after a bite. It causes severe gastrointestinal bleeding, rapid tissue necrosis, acute kidney failure and brain bleeding. Unfortunately, any antidotes against such a strong venom have little effect. In 7% of cases, the bite of an island botrops in humans is fatal, while a mouse dies within 2-3 seconds after an encounter with a snake.

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Island Botrops have a massive broad head and reach a size of 0.7-1 m, rarely growing to 1.18 m. They feed on other snakes, lizards, frogs and millipedes. In addition, spear-headed snakes kill migrating birds, which, unaware of the danger, sit to rest on tree branches and rocks. From the bite of the snake, the bird dies almost instantly, not even having time to fly up. It is believed that the venom of island bottrops is so strong because they cannot find enough food on the island.

Spear-headed snakes can be seen everywhere on Keimada Grandi. They lie in clubs on the sand, inhabit the cliffs overhanging the sea, and crawl from tree to tree in search of food. There are so many reptiles under the forest canopy that you can constantly hear the quiet rustling in the island forest. Similar to whispering sounds are made by hundreds of crawling snakes. The reason for such a large number of snakes is the absence of natural enemies. There are no predators on the island to restrain the growth of the snake population.

Almost all spearhead snakes spend most of their lives in trees and low shrubs. The reptiles like to hide in foliage, so they can be difficult to see even at close range. But it’s very easy to provoke aggressive behavior by accidentally touching a branch with your hand or stepping on a snake in the grass.

How to get there

Snake Island Keimada Grandi is located 35 km from the mainland. Tour boats go to the island from the seaside town of Santos, which is connected by bus to the major Brazilian city of Sao Paulo.

Island of venomous snakes: Can you go to Queimada Grande?

Island of poisonous snakes: can you go to Keimada Grandi

Queimada Grandi is an island that snakes have literally been able to reclaim from humans. To this day, only crawlers and some passing birds live there. People are strictly forbidden to land on the island, as the act could cost lives.

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Where is the island of Keimada Grandi

The island, an almost invisible dot on the map, is part of São Paulo, Brazil. It is washed on all sides by the waters of the Atlantic and only 35 km from the mainland. Fortunately, this has proven to be enough to keep the locals from snakes invading their lives. The island has a mild subtropical climate, an abundance of entertaining vegetation and a solid ocean all around – perfect indicators for creating a small resort here.

The rocky island is in the middle of Atlantic waters. Photo:

The rocky island sits in the middle of Atlantic waters. Photo:

However, not everything is easy, because the venomous snakes in no way want to give up their territory to people. The most dangerous resident of this area is the island botrops, whose venom is capable of killing a man. It is one of the most dangerous snakes on the planet, and there are thousands of them on the island. It is noteworthy that no one knows the exact number of snakes, because even the bravest explorers do not dare to set foot on the snake’s domain.

Grandi is big, but how big is the island really

The island of venomous snakes itself has an oblong shape and stretches in a small strip from north to south. It is only 1.6 km long and only 600 m wide. The entire island fits into an area of 0.43 km². Most of the terrain is a tropical forest and the rest of the land is considered barren. The shores there are rocky and steep, making them dangerous for unprepared people.

The elongated island is surprising in relief. Photo:

The elongated island is surprising in relief. Photo:

It is clear that people do not inhabit this island. There is also not a single eating place or hotel, and the only reminder that there were once people there is a lonely lighthouse, standing out brightly white in the middle of green vegetation, teeming with many varieties of snakes. By the way, we suggest you watch a video about dangerous seas for humans.

The history of the island

The island of snakes Keimada Grandi was discovered in the 16th century, but for a long time, people were simply afraid to do anything on its territory. It is known that once the island wanted to occupy the local businessmen, clearing the land for banana plantations. The plan was to simply burn out all the forest and shrubbery in order to plant new plants in that place, which would be profitable. It should be noted that people did manage to clear some part of the island, but snakes did not tolerate such barbarism for long.

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Snakes guard the island. Photo:

Snakes guard the island. Photo:

Soon the snakes began to attack workers in droves, not only from the ground, but also from the branches of the trees from which they often hunt. The people decided not to retreat and donned protective suits. Of course, the snakes could no longer bite them, but the hot climate did not allow the body to withstand the strain, and people began to suffocate and complain of heart problems. After several workers died, the decision was made to stop work, and this case was the only one in history in which animals displaced humans from their habitat rather than the other way around.

Where do snakes come from on Keimada Grandi

Scientists claim that snakes appeared on this island in Brazil many thousands of years ago. At that time, the island was connected to the mainland, which was not much liked by the people there. They tried in every possible way to oust the crawlers from the area by burning forests and draining water bodies. This forced the snakes to move to the edge of the land, and their connection with the land was soon severed because of geological processes. Scientists who have visited the island assure us that snakes are everywhere: they lie in balls on the ground, hang down from trees and rest in bushes.

Snakes in the trees. Photo:

Snakes in the trees. Photo:

It is said that there are so many of them there that you can hear rustling all the time inside the forest – it is the snakes moving between the trees. Such a large population of snakes lives there because there are no more predators. The growth of the number of snakes is restrained only by the fact that they have to feed only on passing birds.

Is it possible to go to the poisonous island

Since 1985, tourists visiting the island with snakes is strictly forbidden. The whole point is that this place is not only dangerous, but also a protected area, as the island botrops is endemic here. Of course, even without the ban, locals tended to avoid this area, and the island itself is considered one of the most unusual protected areas in the world, which is filled with various rumors and legends.

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The island is off-limits to visitors. Photo:

The island is forbidden to visitors. Photo:

Because of the danger of encountering poisonous snakes, travelers are only shown the shore, and not landed on it. The only regular visitors here are the military, who come once a year to maintain the lighthouse, which works automatically.


There are many legends around the island.

  1. One of them says that once there were people on the island – a lighthouse keeper and his family. Under the cover of the night, while they were sleeping, snakes snuck into their bedrooms, causing people to flee into the woods. There they were attacked by other snakes, and the unfortunates died of multiple bites. Some time later, the military came to the island and discovered the bodies. After this incident, the lighthouse was equipped with an automatic system without the need for human presence on the spot.
  2. Another legend tells of a fisherman who once landed on the island to rest. But as soon as he set foot on the land, he was bitten by a poisonous snake. He only had the strength to crawl to his boat, where he bid farewell to life, and the boat itself with the fisherman was found by other fishermen.
  3. The locals say that the snakes were there thanks to the pirates who hid the treasure, and they brought snakes to protect the riches.

The lighthouse on the island. Photo:

The lighthouse on the island. Photo:

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And how do you feel about traveling to such extreme places?


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