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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

10 Largest Reptiles You Can Find in Africa

African reptiles are diverse with unique features. Crocodiles, snakes, lizards, and tortoises are the most common reptiles in Africa.

If you have an interest in reptiles, then these large creatures will startle you. We will share with you information about African reptiles that are relatively great in their sizes and capacity.

In this piece of writing, we have arranged the ten largest reptiles you can find in Africa in descending order according to their sizes.

1. Nile crocodile

The first largest reptile in Africa, the Nile crocodile is also the second-largest reptile after the saltwater crocodile.

Where can you find the Nile crocodile?

The Nile crocodile is widespread across Sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar, mainly in the Mara River, Narok Kenya, and Nile River, northeastern Africa. 

Habitat: Their habitats are in rivers, streams, swamps, and lakes. 

Characteristics of the Nile crocodile

Nile crocodile has the shape of a lizard, and it has a long sturdy tail, four legs, and scaly, rough hides. Baby Nile crocodiles have brownish to dim olive-colored cross bands body and tail, while the adults have similar but darker cross band bodies and tails.

Size of Nile crocodile

Adult Nile crocodiles, both male, and female have lengths ranging from 12 to 20 feet. However, they usually weigh about 250 to 750 kilograms (550 to 1,650 pounds).

Lifecycle of the Nile crocodile

Nile crocodiles live for about 45 to 80 years. The female Nile crocodile becomes mature for reproduction after ten years of birth, when about 6.5 feet.

The incubation period for Nile crocodiles takes three months. From November to December every year, the female Nile crocodile usually nests across riverbanks or beds. They lay about 25 to 100 eggs; cover the eggs with sand to hatch.

Diets of Nile crocodile

Nile crocodiles are carnivores. Matured Nile crocodiles can feed mainly on fishes and porcupines, buffalos, wildebeests, hippopotamus, pangolins, and wildebeest. The Nile crocodile is a dangerous animal and can even eat human beings, apex predators.

Scientific Classification of Nile crocodile

  • Common Name: Nile crocodile
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Reptilia
  • Order: Crocodilia
  • Family: Crocodylidae
  • Genus: Crocodiles
  • Species: Crocodylus (crocodile) niloticus (of the Nile River)

The population of Nile crocodile

Presently there is about an estimated population of 50,000 to 70,000 Nile crocodiles in the wild across the globe.

2. African rock python

African rock python (Python sebae) is a giant snake and the second largest reptile in Africa, after the Nile crocodile. 

It is a non-venomous snake but kills its prey by trapping, constricting, and coiling around it.

Among the six largest snakes worldwide is the African rock python. They have two lungs, unlike other progressive snakes with one lung.

Where to find the African rock python

You can find the African rock python across Sub-Saharan Africa, especially in South Africa, Ethiopia, Namibia, Tanzania, and Somalia.

The habitat of African rock python ranges from rocky regions to forests, semi-deserts, savannas, grasslands, rivers, lakes, or swamp edges.

African rock python is a nocturnal creature and also a good climber and swimmer. They usually come for sun bask when the weather is warm.

Features of the African rock python

The weight of an African rock python, a large snake, ranges from 32.2 kilograms (71 pounds) to 91 kg (201 pounds). It has a length of about 3.53 meters (11 ft. 7 in) to 6 m (19 ft. 8 in).

Apart from their large size, the snake has olive to chestnut, yellow or brown body markings, and heads of triangular shapes. The underside is usually white.

What does the African rock python eat?

The African rock python is a carnivorous reptile. Their diets consist of rats, lizards, monkeys, crocodiles, dogs, warthogs, poultry, antelopes, goats, bats, and vultures.

Sometimes, they feed on cubs of hyenas, leopards, cheetahs, lions, and leopards. They also feed on wild dogs puppies, and it takes the python a longer time to digest big meals.

Scientific classification of the Nile crocodile

  • Scientific name: Python sebae
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Reptilia
  • Order: Squamata
  • Family: Pythonidae
  • Subspecies: African rock python (Python sebae sebae) and Southern African rock python (Python sebae natalensis)

Lifecycle of the African rock python

The reproduction period season of the African rock python is during the spring, while they carry their pregnancy for 65 to 80 days.

The female African rock python lay about 20 to 100 eggs and carry their babies (snakelet) for about 20 to 100 days. Their average incubation period is 90 days.

At about five years, a female African rock python will be ready to reproduce. African rock python lives for 20 to 30 years in captivity.

3. African spurred tortoise

The African spurred tortoise is the largest tortoise in Africa and the mainland, the third-largest tortoise globally, and the third-largest reptile in Africa

You can find the other largest, two Galapagos and Aldabra tortoises on the island.

African regions where you can find the spurred tortoise

The most popular places where the African spurred tortoise resides are Niger, Senegal, Somalia, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mauritania, Mali, Nigeria, and Sudan.

Distinguishing features of the African Spurred Tortoise

The African spurred tortoise usually weighs 31.7 kilograms to 90.7 kilograms (70 to 200 pounds). It has a length of 18 inches, 2 or 3 feet long.

They have deep golden, sandy, brownish, or yellow-brownish shells. The African spurred tortoise has about three spurs on the rear surface with forelimbs of large scales.

Lifecycle of the African spurred tortoise.

The lifespan of the African spurred tortoise is about 50 to 150 years. They have polygamous mating behaviors, while their reproduction season is around June to March and September to November. They lay about 15 to 30 eggs and have a 90 to 240 days incubation period.

What does African spurred tortoise eat?

African spurred tortoise feed on dandelion greens, luscious plants, weeds, grasses, leaves, flowers, and berseem. Generally, they are vegetarian reptiles.

Scientific classification of the African spurred tortoise

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Reptilia
  • Order: Testudines
  • Family: Testudinidae
  • Genus: Centrochelys
  • Species: C. sulcata

Habitat of the African spurred tortoise.

You can find the African spurred tortoise in North Africa across grasslands and deserts. 

4. Nile Monitor

Nile monitor (Varanus niloticus), also called iguana or African small-grain lizard, is the fourth largest reptile in Africa, belonging to the family of the monitor lizard. It is the second-largest reptile on River Nile after the Nile crocodile.

Where can you find the Nile monitor?

The Nile monitor lives across Sub-Sahara Africa both on water and on land. They can run and climb trees, and they live basically in swamps, forests, mangroves, savannas, scrub, and lowlands, across the Horn of Africa and Florida.

Characteristic features of Nile monitor

The Nile monitor weighs 8.07 kilograms, equivalent to 15 to 17.8 pounds, and its length is 5 feet to 220 cm (7 ft. 3 inches).

The lizard has spiky claws, split claws, pointed teeth, strong muscles, powerful jaws, and rigid legs. Their bodies have grey-brown colors and greenish-yellow spots, and their tails have greenish-yellow tails.

Diet of the Nile monitor

The Nile monitor is a carnivorous reptile and a voracious predator. They feed on eggs of other reptiles, especially that of the Nile crocodile. Also, they eat insects, rodents, crickets, and mealworms.

Scientific classification of the Nile monitor

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Reptilia
  • Family: Varanidae
  • Order: Squamata
  • Species: V. niloticus
  • Genus: Varanus

Lifecycle of Nile monitor

The lifespan of the Nile monitor on captivity is from 10 to 20 years. They have polyandry mating behaviors, and their reproduction season is from June to October.

Their incubation period is from 6 to 9 months, and they lay about 60 eggs that become independent upon hatching.

5. Black mamba

The fifth-largest reptile in Africa and second-longest venomous snake around the world is the black mamba.

They are the most dangerous snake in Africa, very speedy with a maximum speed of 20 km/h, and large.

Where black mamba lives

You can find the black mamba across Sub-Sahara Africa, especially across Eastern and Southern Africa. They live in coastal shrubs, savannas, scrubs, and rain forests.

Characteristics of the black mamba

The black mamba is an olive-brown, yellowish-brown, gray, or olive-brown colored snake and got the black in its name from the black of the inside of its mouth.

They are great climbers with a weight of 1.6 kg (3.5 lb) to 2.4 kg (5.3 lb) and a length of 2.0 meters long, to 4.3 meters (14 feet). The snake has a long slender head with black eyes, round pupils that have light rings.

Scientific classification of the black mamba 

  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Reptilia
  • Family: Elapidae
  • Order: Squamata
  • Species: D. polylepis
  • Genus: Dendroaspis

Lifecycle of the black mamba

The black mamba is usually more active during spring, and that is also their mating season. At this season, the black male mambas fight, and the females raise their tales as signals that they are available.

After two months of mating, the females lay about 17 eggs and incubate for about three months. At birth, the juveniles are also vicious, and the black mambas live for almost 11 years.

Diet of the black mamba

The black mamba feed on other snakes, birds, squirrels, bush babies, rodents, hyraxes, rabbits, and bats.

6. Green Mamba

The green mamba is the 6th largest reptile in Africa, weighing 1 to 1.5 kilogram with 4 to 7 feet long, with the females larger than the males. The green mamba is a very venomous snake and has green colors. They live for about 14 years in captivity.

Where can you find the green mamba?

You can find the green mamba mostly in southern and east Africa, dwelling in trees where they camouflage and find their prey.

Among the most common countries where you can spot the green mamba include; Southern Malawi, Kenya, Eastern Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and Mozambique.

Scientific classification of the green mamba

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Reptilia
  • Family: Elapidae
  • Genus: Dendroaspis
  • Species: D. angusticeps
  • Order: Squamata

What does the green mamba eat?

The primary prey of the green mamba is the eggs of birds and birds, small animals, rodents, and sometimes humans.

7. Gaboon Viper

The gaboon viper is the 7th largest reptile in Africa, and it weighs 20 to 25 pounds and is 4 to 6 feet in length.

The gaboon viper has had the longest fang and the most venom of all snakes in the world. You can find them across West Africa, as well as East and Central Africa.

How does the gaboon viper look like?

The gaboon viper has light brown color and stripes of dark brown diamonds on its body with a leaf-like head.

Its features enable it to disguise successfully for its prey which includes birds and other small animals.

Scientific classification of the gaboon viper

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Class: Reptilia
  • Family: Viperidae
  • Order: Squamata
  • Species: B. gabonica
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Genus: Bitis
  • Subspecies: West African Gaboon Viper (Bitis g. rhinoceros) and East African Gaboon Viper (Bitis. g. gabonica).

8. Cape Cobra

Cape cobra, or yellow cobra, the eighth largest reptile in Africa and one of the venomous snakes on the continent, has 1.2kg to 1.8kg in weight, 3.9 feet (1.2 m (to 1.6 m)) length.

Their lifespan is about 12 to 20 years. They come primarily in yellow colors or black and sometimes dark brown or golden brown colors.

Where can you find the cape cobra?

The cape cobra is a southern African native reptile. But this kind of cobra also lives in western Lesotho, Namibia, and southwestern Botswana. 

Habitat: The yellow cobras’ habitat range from the Kalahari Desert to fynbos, karoo scrubland, and savannas.

Scientific classification of the cape cobra

  • Genus: Naja
  • Species: N. Nivea
  • Order: Squamata
  • Family: Elapidae
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subgenus: Uraeus

What does the Cape cobra eat?

The cape cobra eats mainly rodents, including frogs, birds, other snakes, and lizards. They hunt basically during the day.

9. Boomslang

Boomslang (Dispholidus typus) is the 9th largest reptile in Africa. The name boomslang in Afrikaans and Dutch means ‘tree snake’.

Features of the boomslang

The boomslang is a highly venomous snake that weighs 175 to 510 g (0.386 to 1.124 lb) and averages 299.4 g (0.660 lb). Its length is 2 meters long, but moderately about 1 to 1.6 m in length.

The female boomslang snake has brown colors, while the male boomslang snake has green colors.

Scientific classification of the boomslang

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Reptilia
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Species: D. typus
  • Order: Squamata
  • Genus: Dispholidus; Duvernoy, 1832

Diet of the boomslang

The boomslang does not chew but instead swallows. Boomslang feeds on small animals and eggs of birds and other animals and birds, chameleons, and frogs. Their natural habitat is on cracks of rocks.

10. Giant plated lizard

The giant plated lizard (Gerrhosaurus Validus) is often called the African plated lizard, and it is the 10th largest reptile in Africa, living for about 20 years in captivity.

Where you find the giant plated lizard in Africa

The giant plated lizard is a native African reptile commonly seen across southern Angola, South Africa, southwest Namibia, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe.

Characteristics of the giant plated lizard

They have strong legs with balls on their soles and chunky bodies, and the shell of their eggs are leathery.

The giant plated lizard has brown yellow-spotted scales on its body with brown bellies and yellow head plates. The average length of a giant plated lizard is 75 centimeters (29.5 in).

Scientific classification of the giant plated lizard

  • Family: Cordylidae
  • Order: Squamata
  • Class: Reptilia
  • Genus and Species: Gerrhosaurus Validus

Diet of the African plated lizard

The African plated lizard eats leaves, baby tortoises, flowers, smaller lizards, figs, fruits, as well as a wide range of other soft vegetable matter and invertebrates. They are generally carnivores.

What’s the largest reptile in Africa?

The largest reptile in Africa is the Nile crocodile, weighing 250kg and about 3.8 meters. It is the second-largest reptile in the world after the saltwater crocodile.

What are the ten largest reptiles in the world?

The largest reptiles in the world are;

  • Saltwater Crocodile
  • Nile crocodile
  • Orinoco crocodile
  • Komodo dragon
  • Green Anaconda
  • Leatherback Sea Turtle
  • Bushmaster
  • Alligator Snapping Turtle
  • Reticulated Python
  • Burmese Python

What are the three largest reptiles?

The top 3 largest reptiles are;

  1. Saltwater crocodile – 4.3 to 5.2 m (14 to 17 ft).
  2. Nile crocodile – 3.7 to 4.9 m (12 to 16 ft).
  3. Orinoco crocodile – 3.7 to 4.9 m (12 to 16 ft).


The list of the largest reptiles in Africa above includes:

  • Their habitat.
  • African regions where they are widespread.
  • Detailed information about each of them.

Though there are other large reptiles in Africa, this list provides surprising details and facts about these remarkable reptiles that live in Africa.

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