The snake charmer with a bulging purse

Hamisi Chiboga famously known as Manyoka playing with his snakes at Ukunda in Kwale County. (Photo: Tobias Chanji, Standard)

A snake charmer in Kwale County has found fortune from his bond with the poisonous reptiles.

Hamisi Chiboga, or Arrafat Manyoka as he is more commonly known, from Mwamanga village has nurtured a booming business of rearing and playing with snakes, for which he charges curious visitors.

The venture has also seen him provide employment to scores of residents in the village on the outskirts of Diani.

Mr Manyoka (pictured) is not your usual villager as he does what others will not dare – eking a living from hobnobbing with snakes. But he is quite at home as he performs adrenaline-packed shows at his Jungle Snake Park that he established more than 10 years ago.

“I have all the poisonous snakes that include black mamba, green mamba, cobra, boom slang, puff udder and python, which are a darling to me,” he says as he shows Weekend Business around the park, with a snake around his neck.

Increased pay

“I have employed like fifty villagers who move around to look for grasshoppers and rats to feed the snakes. In here, I have three employees who I used to pay Sh3,000 each per month but because business has been, good I have increased their pay to Sh10,000 each,” says the snake charmer.

“I have promised them a top-up of another Sh10,000.”

He said tourists, both local and foreign, throng his farm to watch his antics, and it is paying off.

Mr Manyoka, however, says he and the reptiles were not always friends. He says he was their serial killer before he “fell in love” with them and became their defender.

“I used to kill snakes any time I saw them, until I realised some people were earning from them by keeping and showing them to people,” he says.

One of the park’s employees is Mohammed Omar, who says he also intends to pass the charming art to his generation.

“From this work, I have managed to feed my family and take care of other basic needs. It is a job that I will also pass to my children.” Apart from snakes, there is also a crocodile, turtles, an owl and chameleons at the park. The ‘chameleon show’ is most interesting to watch during eating time.

Asked if he uses witchcraft, Mr Manyoka is quick to deny, insisting that his is just love and that is why he has spread the art to other villagers.

“In the past, people were using witchcraft and that is why they did not want to teach anyone, but I have trained the entire village how to stay with snakes,” he says.

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