The Banded sea snake or krait (Laticauda Colubrina) is the most common form of amphibious snake throughout SE Asia and is the only type that you will encounter when scuba diving Koh Tao. Tao’s reefs and rocky shorelines provide the krait with an excellent habitat and eco system for it to survive.
How Do They Look?
These snakes are named after their blue and black band colouration that cover the length of its body with the underside being a slight beige/cream colour. The head is mainly black with the eyes and mouth being slightly yellow.
The sex of the animal depends on how big it will grow with males growing up to 75cm in length while the females can get up to 128cm long. The ends of their tails are flat to provide them with extra propulsion through the water.
Don’t Be Afraid
Although the snakes possess highly toxic venom they are not aggressive towards scuba divers. They just continue on with their daily routine not really caring about the strange scuba diver staring at him. An old wives tail is that their fangs are too small to bite a person but this is not true but with the fangs are only a few cm long it means that they would find it difficult to penetrate a diver’s exposure suit.
Just keep a little bit of distance as you swim with them as they glide over and inside the reefs going about their daily business. They only become aggressive if grabbed or pulled – just like you would so keep your hands to yourself!
To show just how placid these creatures are, one time during a dive I was conducting from the open water course at our artificial house reef Junkyard a snake came to join us. My student at the time was performing a hover (a neutral buoyancy skill). The snake, which was extremely inquisitive decided to swim towards us and wrap itself around the girls leg for a rest. After a little time catching its breath the snake unwrapped itself and continued on its merry way minding its own business.
Funnily enough the student hadn’t even noticed what had happened and couldn’t believe what I told her! That’s how gentle and calm it was!
The Life Of A Krait
Like their amphibious reptile cousins’ sea turtles and crocodiles, the sea snake has to swim to the surface at periods so they can get a breath before heading back underwater. They can hold their breath for long periods while they look for prey of eels and small fish, when they find some food they paralyze it through a bite and administering its venom.
Quite often they will be followed by other predators such as trevally who pick off other fish that are flushed out of the crevices that the snake enters. The banded sea krait spends a lot of time on land where it will digest its food, shed it skin and mate.
Quite a few people are scared of the thought of being close to a snake but fun diving with one will help break down that barrier. If planning a dive trip to Koh Tao be sure to ask the staff at Crystal Dive on which dive sites you are more likely to come across one if wishing to see a banded sea snake.
If you wish to learn more about invertebrates that exist underwater than you should consider taking the Underwater Naturalist Specialty Course next time you go scuba diving. Your PADI Instructor will teach you how and where to find different types of invertebrates.
Author: Neil Davidson (PADI MSDT #294100)