Snake Island – The Deadliest Island in the World

Snake Island

There are places that are meant to be left alone, untouched. If you want to protect a place, what would you do? Would you put a fence around it? Maybe some dogs to guard it? And if I tell you mother nature also has her ways to protect a place like an Island? Today’s post we are going to talk about one of the most dangerous places in the world: Ilha da Queirmada Grande, also known abroad as the Snake Island.

Presenting Queimada Grande – The Snake Island

From the ocean, 90 miles off the shore of Sao Paulo, Brazil, Queimada Grande looks like a beautiful and ordinary island. A piece of paradise in the middle of the Atlantic ocean. But this is just an illusion. Despite the natural beauty, this island is definitely not a place for vacations or adventures. Actually, it is one of the most dangerous places on earth.

Let’s put it together. First, it is a remote island, second, there are no beaches you can drop off, and third, it’s packed with Golden Lancehead snakes, endemic to this island (yes, this species, one of the most venomous in the world, you will find only there).

Ok, what is the conclusion? If you ask me, it is an obvious and palpable “Stay Away From This Island!“.

The huge population of threatening snakes made it impossible for humans to coexist on the same island. Due to the danger, the Brazilian government strictly controls visits to Queimada Grande Island. In fact, this island is so dangerous that the Brazilian navy has forbidden people from even landing there.

But, How Dangerous is it?

Snake Island | Photo by Joao Marcos Rosa

Snake Island | Photo by Joao Marcos Rosa

Let’s talk about the snake population first. Researchers estimate that on the island live between one and five snakes per square meter, which is the highest concentration of venomous snakes anywhere in the world. And before you start thinking on the chances of being bitten, you need to know that the effects of envenomations by lanceheads include swelling, local pain, nausea and vomiting, blood blisters, bruising, blood in the vomit and urine, intestinal bleeding, kidney failure, hemorrhage in the brain and severe necrosis of muscular tissue, yikes!

Snake’s Profile

Snake Island

The Bothrops Insularis, commonly known as the golden lancehead, is a venomous pitviper named for the light yellowish brown color of its underside and for its head shape. They prefer to live on the trees, differently from their cousins on the mainland, the Bothrops jararaca, responsible to most of the deaths by snakes in Brazil.

Due to the necessity of killing birds as fast as possible (they do not want its pray to go far after bitten), the snake developed a powerful fast-acting poison. The result of this evolution is venom five times stronger than the one from its mainland cousin, which can kill a man in one hour.

How Did It Happen?

Snake Island

Snake Island | Photo by Joao Marcos Rosa

Aging 55 million years old, this island was connected to the mainland in the beginning. But after the deglaciation (10 to 12 thousand years ago) it became an island, isolated from the continent.

With no predators, the snakes took over the island. But with the scarcity of food, these vipers, originally living on the ground, had to adapt and learn how to climb trees in order to get migrating birds stopping there for resting.

What About Numbers?

Snake Island

Snake Island | Photo by Joao Marcos Rosa

In the 1900’s, people who went there used to say it was common to see snakes everywhere, every time. Nowadays, it’s not so easy to see as before, due in part to bio-piracy. It’s estimated that the snake’s population dropped to about 2 thousand, which is still an impressive number for such a small island (43 hectares) though.

Because of the overall low population of the Golden Lancehead, the snake was labeled critically endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It was also placed on the list of the Brazilian endangered animals.


Final Considerations

Unless you are feeling lucky, adventurous, and don’t mind more than two thousand pairs of intimidating eyes lurking where you walk, you can try going there. Be aware that the island is not opened for tourism, however, the Brazilian government does provide sanctions for researching and other related civic activities. But If I were you, I would definitely listen to Mother Nature’s advice and stay away from that island 🙂

Snake Island


Snake Island Map

Ilha da Queimada Grande, São Paulo, Brazil

Sources: Viaje Abril and Wikipedia