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Ethical Travel: Visiting Bangkok’s Red Cross Snake Farm

‘Snake farms’ are common as tourist attractions around the world but they are often not very ethical. I’ve only ever visited one snake farm and it was at the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute in Bangkok, where the Red Cross extracts venom to use for antidotes to snakebite victims. It was a day out that I recommend if you’re travelling with kids, as I genuinely learnt a lot about snakes, science and they’re treated well too.

The Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute is located between the Rama IV and Henry Dunant Roads, next door to Chulalongkorn Hospital and University. The nearest stations are the Sala Daeng BTS Skytrain and Silom MRT Stations. If you want to get lunch, then there are a couple of cafes and a mall nearby. It costs 200 baht to get in.

Snake handler, Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute, Bangkok
Snake handler, Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute, Bangkok

It’s best to come about an hour before a show is going to begin, and you can time it depending on whether you want to see the venom extraction demonstration or the snake-handling show. You can even see both in one day.

King cobra, Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute, Bangkok
King cobra, Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute, Bangkok

The venom extraction is at 11am on Monday to Friday, but it is not on at the weekends or holidays. The snake-handling show is more popular so its on at 11am on the weekends or holidays and at 2.30pm from Monday to Friday. You’ll need to come on a weekday if you want to see both shows.

Snake around a gnome, Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute, Bangkok
Snake around a gnome, Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute, Bangkok

Before the show, I recommend having a look around the outdoor snake enclosures first to see the snakes that are outside, like this one wrapped around a gnome.

Chinese edible frog, Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute, Bangkok
Chinese edible frog, Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute, Bangkok

I’m not sure if they’re meant to be there or not, but there are edible frogs in the outdoor tanks so have a lookout for them.

Spotted dove, Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute, Bangkok
Spotted dove, Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute, Bangkok

As well as the unexpected frogs, there is urban wildlife to be found in the memorial grounds like this spotted dove that I saw in one of the trees.

Read: Where to find Malaysia’s urban wildlife in Kuala Lumpur

Snake skeleton, Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute, Bangkok
Snake skeleton, Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute, Bangkok

After you’ve been outside, its time to go inside and up into the snake museum which is genuinely fascinating and one of the better museums that I visited in Southeast Asia.

Specimens, Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute, Bangkok
Specimens, Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute, Bangkok

There are loads of specimens of different types of snake and the collection documents the entire lifecycle of the snake from reproduction and eggs, all the way through to adulthood.

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Albino cobra, Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute, Bangkok

There is another collection of snakes below the museum on the bottom floor so you expand your snake identification knowledge even further! The tanks aren’t massive though so hopefully this is something that the institute will work on in the future.

Cobra, Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute, Bangkok
Cobra, Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute, Bangkok

If you want to get a good seat to the snake-handling show then you’ll need to get to the theatre one half an hour before it starts, as it gets very busy, especially with school groups. The snake-handling show involves bringing out several of their fascinating snakes and talking about their behaviour. The stars of the show are the king cobras that puff up their necks up in front of the crowd.

Albino Burmese python, Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute, Bangkok
Albino Burmese python, Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute, Bangkok

At the end of the demonstration, you can hold this albino Burmese python and have your photograph taken with it as it is used to being handled. The Bangkok snake farm is a really educational day out and a must for snake-loving travellers or kids visiting Thailand’s most notorious city.

If this guide has got you really into snakes and you’d like to know more about conserving this vital species then check out Save the Snakes.

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Have you been to Bangkok’s snake farm? What did you think of it? Share your stories in the comments below.

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Ethical Travel: Visiting Bangkok’s Red Cross Snake Farm
Ethical Travel: Visiting Bangkok’s Red Cross Snake Farm

 

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