Snakes he’s a big one!
by Ronnie Hoyle

IT’S NOT that I’ve gone snake-mad recently; it’s just that every time I step outside the door to go exploring around Panglao Island or Bohol lately, fate seems to stick another snake in my pathway…and the things appear to be getting bigger!

This time the creature was enormous…and I think I’m beginning to suffer from the same persecution complex that must have haunted Adam and Eve from the beginning.

I had already been to Snake Island, which is about 4 kms off Alona Beach, Panglao, and decided to avoid that again - in fact, I had sailed over the ‘island’ years ago on the way between Balicasag and Pamilacan when out dolphin-watching.

The ‘island’ is, in fact, an underwater sand and coral-encrusted Chocolate Hill called Cervera Shoal and is mainly the home of hundreds of banded black and white sea snakes, plus quite a few octopi and squid.

The sea snakes have made it a trysting place of their kind and it is visited regularly by divers from Panglao, so I was on my way to see the real Chocolate Hills again and some of the new holiday developments in the Loboc area, and not particularly looking for more snake encounters after cobras invaded my cottage on Alona Beach.

Fate stepped in on the way in the form of my driver from Alona Beach, who wanted to show me something ‘interesting’ as a short side-tour. He did not say what it was, but I guessed the moment I saw the sign by the side of the road: “The biggest python on Bohol.”
And Monty Python – who else would he be? – was big. He lives in a cage at Alburquerque and all he does is lie there, getting fatter and fatter and growing longer by the day and waiting for his audience to admire his sleek outlines and photograph him.

He may have started out the size of an egg, but now he’s now he’s outgrown his brothers and sisters and is bigger than a leg, and he seems to be heading for the waist measurement in his bid to become a big boy…or is it girl?...I don’t think Monty has answered that question yet.

If you really want to find out if it is him or her, take courage in your hands and turn the beast belly up and look for the lizard ancestry marks - the vestiges of two small hind legs are found only on the male for some reason.

Weighing in at about 220 kilos, it takes a miniature army to carry him about and a piglet or something similar once a month to satisfy his gargantuan appetite: you wonder how he can get his lips around his feast, but somehow he dislocates his jaw to swallow the offering whole: you know he’s just been fed when you see his distended belly looking four times larger than his head!

Some ten years old, Monty is a reticulated python, which are common in many South Pacific islands, and they have been known to grow to 33 feet long. Monty has been the family ‘pet’ since he was caught as a baby…but, oh, baby, look at him now – you wouldn’t want him to demand a hug: it could be the death of you!

Soon after I arrived in the Philippines my first snake encounter was also a large python, which was hiding in a box in the garage of a house being rented in a walled compound at Guadalupe in Cebu City: we asked the neighbours to help and they kindly took it away…and ate it…without offering us a single nibble. “It tasted of chicken,” they gleefully reported when asked what had happened to it!

We actually found another large python – this time only about 10 foot long – slithering around behind the cottages at Oops Bar and Alona Vida on Alona Beach recently, but no one was brave enough to go out and capture the beast.

A few days later, another python turned up near the swimming pool and cottages of Alona Vida. It was not as big, but at more than a meter long no one was going to mess about with him or her, so it was put into a cage and offered a chick to make friends with.

The “chicken cruncher” actually ate two chicks within two weeks after being pen-alised by security, so it’s no wonder pythons taste of chicken as well, but so far no one wants to go searching along the beach to find out what mama or papa think about his imprisonment.

In the meantime, he or she is just waiting around to catch up to Monty’s size. So, if you venture around the area, you might just see our own pet giant python taking a nap in the sun. Happy hunting!

Alona Vida:
(038) 502-9180

Oops Bar: cell phone 0920-461-7895