On our last evening Tasneem takes out out for a night safari on the beach to search for sea-kraits. These are beautiful black-and-white banded snakes that hunt eels in the ocean in the daytime, and come out onto the beaches at night to access fresh water, rest in rock crevices (they breathe air) and also in the twisted root systems of the abundant fallen trees, and occasionally to breed. They are highly venomous snakes, but rarely dangerous to humans (apart from when handled) because of their weak bite and placid temperament.
After ten minutes of searching, we come across a tipped tree root system. As my eyes adjust, I realise there are at least ten of these snakes, up to 1-2 m long, writhing through the roots and climbing above our heads, just a metre or two away from us. There are two species, the yellow-lipped sea krait (Laticaudia colubrina) and the rarer blue lipped sea krait (Laticaudia laticaudata), both having a marked flat rudder-like tail. It is a mesmerising if somewhat nightmarish vision, looking up at a gnarled tree root system alive with beautiful venomous snakes.
We walk back pointing out the southern stars and Mars, Jupiter and Saturn , wrapped in the warm breeze that dries our clothes.
Yadvinder Malhi is an ecosytem ecologist and Professor of Ecosystem Science at Oxford University