If you’re thinking of making a trip to the land of towering temples and mystical pyramids, then you might want to whiz up on some of the creatures you’ll encounter. Cue this guide to the most dangerous animals in Egypt, which lists just seven formidable examples of fauna that lurk between the deserts and the wiggling Nile River.
It’s got all sorts, from tooth-bearing sharks to snapping crocodiles that reside on the muddy banks. Some are ancient, some are invasive. There are creatures that you’re all but certain to come across and others that are all but extinct.
The good news is that, even with this list of dangerous animals in Egypt prowling the nation, it’s rare that the native wildlife poses a threat to travelers. Be wise, keep your distance from the bigger animals, take precautions when hiking or diving, and you should be totally fine.
Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus)
Beware the Nile crocodile, the largest freshwater predator on the continent by quite some distance. These beefy reptiles are like something plucked out of Jurassic Park. They can grow to a whopping 4.5 meters in length and weigh a mighty ton at full adulthood. Oh, and they have a bite that measures 5,000 pounds of force – enough to split flesh and bone!
Once prevalent all up and down the country’s iconic central river, the Nile croc is now only seen around Lake Nasser and the south of the country. However, it’s done well further south of that, with a range that extends into 26 other nations to make it the most successful crocodilian in the whole of Africa.
Attacks on humans aren’t all that common, but they aren’t unheard of. There are about 12-20 per year and many do end fatally. However, that’s usually down to fishermen and boaters entering the croc’s habitat. The general rule is not to get near the water’s edge, where these guys often prowl and disguise themselves as floating timber.
Egyptian cobra (Naja haje)
The Egyptian cobra is the stuff of myth and legend. It was this slithering creature that was thought to have bitten the great queen Cleopatra during her suicide in 30 BC. It was also the inspiration for the Egyptian-Greek goddess Wadjet, a cultish symbol of royalty that pops up in archaeological finds from Lower Egypt from as far back as 600 BC.
It also happens to be one of the animals you’ll want to avoid during your travels to the country. Why? Well…how about a bite that injects a cocktail of venom that leads to nervous system shutdowns, paralysis, nausea, vomiting – we could go on and on. Extreme cases will lead to death, and – here’s the kicker – specimens of the snake in the north part of Africa (that’s Egypt!) are WAY more deadly than the ones in the south.
Egyptian cobras tend to live in desert regions away from the Nile but can also survive in the long grasses of savanna. They’re often brought into contact with human populations thanks to their propensity for hunting rodents in built-up towns and villages.
Red spitting cobra (Naja pallida)
The second snake that makes it onto this list of the most dangerous animals in Egypt is the red spitting cobra. It grows to lengths of just over a meter from end to end, with a distinct coloring of salmon red dashes moving all the way down the body, although some regional variations mean that other specimens will be a dark, brooding scarlet color all the way up.
Naja pallida, to give it the Latin name, are present in the deep south of Egypt only, close to the border with Sudan. There, they tend to live in hot, semidesert regions under altitudes of 1,000 meters. They usually reside near water sources, which means you can find high population numbers gathered at certain spots.
True to their name, spitting cobras are capable of projecting their venom into the faces of victims. It’s a disconcerting mix of neurotoxins and cytotoxins that can numb nerves and cause extreme pain close to the site of contact. It rarely leads to death in humans but often causes severe disfigurement and even anaphylactic shock in certain cases.
Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibious)
Hippos might look rather harmless with their big, galumphing bodies and rotund heads. However, these semi-aquatic river dwellers are actually among the most formidable creatures in Africa, let alone among the most dangerous animals in Egypt.
Weighing in at an average of 1,480 kilograms when fully grown, a hippo is a beast of a customer. Some of the largest ever found have even come close to 3,000 kilos! Now, none of that’s an issue if the creature is safely sequestered in their aquatic environs. But say a boat passes by or a human gets between the animal and his muddy H2O bath. Well, then, these guys can charge and ram and bite. They kill an estimated 500 people per year these days!
That said, hippos are not really present in Egypt anymore. They were hunted to oblivion by the ancients and driven further into sub-Saharan over the centuries. So much so, in fact, that the sub-species known as the Nile hippopotamus is now listed as totally extinct. Still, there’s a small chance you can spot a roaming one in the deep southern reaches of that famous river.
Scalloped hammerhead shark (Sphyrna lewini)
It’s no secret that the eastern coast of the country, all the way from Sharm-el-Sheik on the Sinai to Wadi el Gemal further south, is a mecca for lovers of marine life. And we’re not just talking coral blooms and small fish. We’re also talking big predators like the scalloped hammerhead shark, which is one of the most elusive yet dangerous animals in Egypt for sure.
Often spotted on morning dives during the main summer shark season, the scalloped hammerhead is a critically endangered species that’s been heavily overfished all around the globe. However, they can still be sighted in schools around the breeding locations of the iconic Daedalus Reef and throughout the Tiran Straits, often preying on tuna and barracuda.
Scalloped hammerheads aren’t as aggressive as the great hammerhead sharks that are the larger in the genus. However, just one glance at their jagged dual rows of teeth on the top and bottom of the jaw should be enough to see that it’s worth keeping your distance!
Lionfish are actually native to the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. Today, though, they’ve colonized virtually all of the coastline around Egypt and the greater Mediterranean Sea beyond. Experts think that they’ve managed to migrate up through the Suez Canal and into the Eastern Med and are now wreaking havoc on delicate ecosystems as far afield as southern Italy and Malta.
They’re also a danger to sea-loving travelers on account of their highly venomous spines. They run the whole length of the back of the animal, providing potent protection against predators. If stepped on, said spines inject a poison that can lead to heart failure and death, though most cases show only local symptoms such as pins and needles, soreness, and extreme pain at the site of contact.
There’s no denying that lionfish are strikingly beautiful creatures. Striped with lines of bold magenta and red on a background of pale white, they also sport flamboyant fins that drift out from the body like the dress of a twirling dervish. Unfortunately, the pattern makes them pretty hard to spot amid the coral gardens of Hurghada and Sharm, so watch where you’re stepping!
Last but certainly not least comes the pinprick-sized buzzer that is the mosquito. A perennial problem for travelers with their heart set on exploring the hotter climbs of the planet, this one’s not a real danger in and of itself – a mozzie bite is little more than an irritation in the short term. However, they are known to carry some of the most feared tropical diseases known to man.
Thankfully, the deadliest of them all, malaria, is no longer a real problem in Egypt. It was once upon a time, but the last recorded case of local transmission of the disease that kills over 500,000 people annually around the globe was back in 2014 in these parts. That’s the good news. Now for the bad…
There are oodles of other so-called arboviruses – ailments spread by mosquito bites – that you can catch in Egypt. Dengue is the most prevalent. It’s a debilitating, flu-like sickness that causes cramps, high fever, and, in extreme cases, even death. This is also a hotspot for West Nile virus and chikungunya, which leads to high temperatures and joint pain.
The most dangerous animals in Egypt – our conclusion
There’s a pretty hefty array of dangerous animals in Egypt, from sharks that patrol the warm waters of the Red Sea to desert snakes with deadly venom to monstrous crocs that love the muddy sides of the famous Nile River. Chances are you won’t come across most of them unless you go a-looking. If you do, it might be a good idea to keep your distance. An encounter with one of these could ruin that once-in-a-lifetime jaunt to the pyramids!