Two deadly snakes entwined in battle is not the sort of thing you'd expect to see while strolling down the beach, but on a recent trip to South Africa's South Coast, photographer Corlette Wessels stumbled across exactly that.

Wessels had just set foot in the sand when she spotted these two male green mambas interwoven in territorial combat. 

"At first we were scared to approach as we were not sure what was happening," she explains.

After establishing that it was safe to sneak a bit closer, Wessels grabbed her phone to capture the rarely seen event. "I started to video as I knew this was a very rare sighting, and to see two big green mambas in combat on a beach is not going to happen again soon."

This game of snake "Twister" is most likely a turf battle between two rival males. The behaviour is often confused with mamba mating, and we've seen it before – although other similar sightings have all involved the green mamba's deadlier cousin, the black mamba. Experts agree that the brawl is mostly a show of bravado between males.

"It's a bit like a sumo wrestling match … a bit of pushing and shoving and eventually the one with the biggest push wins," said local snake expert Shaun Bodington when a similar mamba tussle was filmed last year.

To win the reptilian wrestling match, the snakes repeatedly try to top one another, hoping to "pin" their opponent to the ground. The weaker snake will eventually bow out, and the victor earns the right to mate with a female, who's usually somewhere nearby.  

Wessels spent 15 minutes watching the duel before the green mambas went their separate ways: "The bigger one of the two kept pushing the smaller one down … they split up and each went in different ways back to the thick coastal forest near the beach."

Eastern green mambas lead a secretive lifestyle in the trees and rarely come into contact with humans. Although there are records of human fatalities from their potent venom, bites are rare. Be that as it may, this is one of those wildlife sightings you want to observe from a safe distance.

For a look at how male combat and mating play out among mambas, check out this rare footage of black mamba courtship interrupted by a rival suitor:



Header image: Sedeer El-Showk