Wildlife photographers usually spend hours in the field hunting for that perfect shot, but sometimes the most memorable sightings happen when it's least expected.

While on a recent trip to South Africa’s Londolozi Private Game Reserve, photographer Sean de la Harpe-Parker was fortunate enough to encounter a unique wildlife sighting just a few short steps away from the lodge where he was staying. De la Harpe-Parker was relaxing on a private viewing deck when movement in the bushes below caught his attention. Closer inspection revealed a western stripe-bellied sand snake caught in the venomous fangs of a southern vine snake.

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Image: Sean de la Harpe-Parker

“Grabbing my camera from the side table I rushed over and lay down on my stomach to capture one of the most exciting and riveting scenes I have ever witnessed,” de la Harpe-Parker explained via email. “At first it was difficult to see exactly what was happening as I had to find my focus between the leaves, but when I had locked on, my jaw dropped from absolute awe.”

Vine snakes carry a potent haemotoxic venom that is not only effective for killing their prey, but also aids in digestion. Sometimes called twig snakes for their ability to mimic thin branches, they are considered formidable hunters. Despite this, de la Harpe-Parker found it surprising that a vine snake was able to catch a sand snake – a species known to move with lightning speed.

The sand snake put up a valiant effort to fend off the attack, but eventually succumbed to the potent venom of its adversary. “The entire process took about one hour and in the end the vine snake had pretty much doubled its weight,” de la Harpe-Parker said.

“So often we are focused on the big things in life that we forget to take a breath and simply observe the incredible moments happening under our noses,” he added.

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Image: Sean de la Harpe-Parker
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Image: Sean de la Harpe-Parker
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Image: Sean de la Harpe-Parker