This is Snake Island, one of the most deadly places in the world. It has snakes on your left. And snakes on your right. Giant cockroaches are coming from behind. And nothing but open ocean in front of you. Welcome to your home for the next week. 33 km (20 mi) off the coast of Brazil, there’s a place so dangerous it’s forbidden to visitors. lha da Queimada Grande offers 430,000 m2 (106 acres) of tropical paradise. There’s just one catch. There’s at least one snake per m2 (1.2 sq yard). And a whopping 4,000 of them are golden lancehead pit vipers – one of the deadliest species of snake in the world. Scared yet? Well, look alive because you’ll be here on Snake Island for seven days. How deadly is a golden lancehead’s venom? What other creatures on the island want to kill you?
And why do you have to worry about pirates?
Step 1. Stay out of the forest
It’s Monday, and you’re feeling confident. Things are looking good until you realize that simply getting onto the island will be a problem. Rocks surround Snake Island. So on top of being dangerous to swim around, there’s a serious chance of trashing your boat. In late February 2019, a small fishing boat was caught in a storm and began sinking in the worst place possible – Snake Island. Four of the six men decided to swim to shore. The other two chose to stay on the boat. Yeah, they decided to drown over swimming to Snake Island. The four castaways managed to survive on the island for three days. They drank rainwater and ate bananas they found on the forest’s edge. The keyword is edge. One rule kept them alive for those three days – nobody goes into the woods. Luckily for the survivors, they spotted a boat near the island and quickly hitched a ride. As for you, you’ve got six more days.
Step 2. Watch out for cockroaches
It’s Tuesday. You’ve stayed clear of the forest and haven’t seen any lethal vipers yet. But they’re not the only threat on Snake Island. You’ve got to worry about other nonvenomous snakes, locusts, and giant cockroaches that cover the island. Even on the beach, you should regularly check for these critters. And try to avoid them the best you can. But come Wednesday night, you’re getting hungry. Like really hungry. The cockroaches could save you from starving if you have a strong stomach. Don’t worry. They’re safe to eat, a good source of protein and provide essential amino acids. Look, you’ve already chosen to spend a week here. A cockroach dinner is not the worst decision you’ve ever made.
Step 3. Deal with the snakes
Wednesday morning, and it’s time to deal with those vipers. You’re going into the forest. First, try to find a stick. It will help you fight the snakes off and prevent them from biting you. But if one does get past you, get ready for a world of hurt. Since the golden lancehead pit vipers on the island evolved away from the mainland, they developed a venom up to five times stronger than a regular lancehead viper’s. By Thursday, the snakes are getting more aggressive. Their potent venom causes severe physical complications. You can look forward to kidney failure, brain hemorrhaging, and intestinal bleeding. Also, if you’re starting to feel like your skin is melting, that’s the venom killing your muscle tissue. You might need some help with this one.
Step 4. Bring a doctor
On Friday, you remember something. The only people allowed to visit snake island are biologists, researchers, and the Brazilian navy. And that’s only if they have a government-required doctor with them. No doctor. No snakes. If a golden lancehead bites you, you have a 7% chance of dying. Being treated by a doctor can reduce those chances to 3%. You, uh, you brought a doctor, right?
Step 5. Beware of pirates
You just have to make it through the weekend. You’ve eaten cockroaches and fought off snakes without a doctor to save you. What else can this island throw at you? Well, pirates, apparently. Wildlife smugglers, also known as biopirates, have frequently stopped on the island to trap and sell the snakes. On illegal markets, a single golden lancehead pit viper is worth up to $30,000. And since this is the only place where they exist, the golden lanceheads are listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List. To survive your last hours on the island, just simply avoid the pirates and stay out of their way.
Your week on snake island is finally over.