According to legend, the Grootslang is a primordial creature as old as the world itself. Tales state that gods, new to the crafting of things, made a terrible mistake in the Grootslang's creation, and gave it tremendous strength, cunning, and intellect. Realizing their mistake, the gods split the Grootslang into separate creatures and thus created the first elephants and the first snakes. But one of the original Grootslangs escaped, and from this first sire all other Grootslangs were born. It is claimed to devour elephants by luring them into its cave. The cave is known as the "Wonder Hole" or the "Bottomless Pit". Supposedly, it connects to the sea which is 40 miles away. According to local legend, the cave is filled with diamonds. It is also said to live in warm rivers and lakes. In Benin, it is said to be a huge elephant-like creature with a serpent's tail. Also according to the tale, Grootslangs covet gems, particularly diamonds, and despite the creatures' lust for cruelty, victims can often bargain for their freedom by offering a Grootslang enough precious gems. While searching for treasure in the richtersveld of South Africa in 1917, Englishbusinessman Peter Grayson disappeared after members of his party were attacked and injured by lions, prompting legends that the Grootslang had killed him.
Freshwater Monster of South Africa.
Etymology: Afrikaans, “great serpent.”
Variant names: Kayman, Ki-man (Nama/
Khoisan), !Koo-be-eng (Nama/Khoisan),
Physical description: Length, twenty to 39 feet.
Larger than a hippo. Black skin. Head, 7 to eight
inches wide. Neck, eight to ten feet long.
Tracks: Width, 18 inches.
Habitat: Rivers, lakes, and swamps.
Distribution: Orange and Vaal Rivers, South
Significant sightings: A Nama rock painting
on Cathedral Peak, KwaZulu-Natal Province,
South Africa, depicts a great horned serpent
called !Koo-be-eng. Others appear in Brakfontein
Cave near Koesberg; in the cave near
Klein Aasvogelkop; and in the cave of the Great
Black Serpent in Rockwood Glen, near the
Upper Orange River.
About 1867, Hans Sauer saw a large, black
snake in the Orange River near Aliwal North,
Eastern Cape Province.
In 1899, merchant G. A. Kinnear was crossing
the Orange River near Upington, Northern
Cape Province, when he saw the head of a monstrous
serpent emerge from the water. About
8–10 feet of head and neck were visible.
In 1910, Frederick C. Cornell was camping
about twenty miles from Augrabiesvalle, Northern
Cape Province, with two companions, one an
American named Kammerer, who was bathing
in a pool nearby. Suddenly, Kammerer came
back shouting and said that a great wave had
come up behind him and that a head with massive
jaws belonging to a giant snake had risen twelve
feet in the air.
In May 1920, at the confluence of the Great
Fish and Orange Rivers, Frederick C. Cornell
and others in his party saw the head and neck of
a large snake swimming in the water.
John Clift saw a 20-foot crocodilian emerge
from the Big Hole, an abandoned mine crater
near Kimberley, Northern Cape Province, in
In November 1963, newspapers started reporting
various encounters with a water monster
in the Vaal Dam, Free State Province. Most of
the reports were vague. Stanley Jacob and his father,
David, watched a monster surface 110
yards from their boat, near Oranjeville on February
sixteen, 1964. At first, it looked like a swimming
horse. They went to fetch a gun, then returned.
The animal had grayish-brown skin,
smoother than a hippo’s.
(1) A large variety of African rock python
(Python sebae), which often grows to thirty–33
(2) The Water monitor (Varanus niloticus)
is Africa’s largest lizard, reaching more than
(3) An unknown species of monitor lizard,
suggested by naturalist Mike Meyring.
(4) Bernard Heuvelmans equated this
animal with his Longneck variety of seal,
which he thought might be responsible for
Nessie and other lake monsters.