In the north-eastern side of the North Cape Province of South Africa lies the Richtersveld; a wild and inhospitable place of brutal peaks and deep canyons. On its northern border is the Orange River, whose lush and fertile banks provide habitat for one of the most diverse populations of creatures in all of Africa. Hidden deep among the razor-sharp volcanic rocks is a deep cave system called the Wonder Hole, said to connect to the ocean some sixty-five kilometers away. Within the Wonder Hole is said to be a vast hoard of diamonds and precious stones, collected and protected by the fearsome Grootslang.

According to local folklore, the Grootslang is a primordial beast, having the characteristics of both a snake and an elephant. After creating the creature, the gods instantly regretted their decision. Not only had they created a monstrosity but they had also endowed it with superior intelligence and cunning. According to legend, the gods split the creature in two, making snake and elephant, then destroyed the remaining Grootslang. Unfortunately, one survived. It is from this lone monster, that the species is descended from.

Descriptions of the creature vary wildly. Some say it has the body of an elephant, with a mass of snakes where its trunk should be. Others, say it is more snake like, fifty feet in length, with an elephant like head. In any context, it is a horrid and terrifying amalgam. The Grootslang is driven by the love of precious stones, diamonds being its favorite. As a dragon hoards gold, so the Grootslang collects gems. The monster is so devoted to them, that it can even be bargained with to deliver mercy in exchange for them.

While it seems like a fantastic excerpt from ancient folklore, the indigenous population consider the creature to be firmly footed in reality. Recent sightings are rare, though there are several documented encounters from the early twentieth century. Most describe something like a giant, aggressive water snake, tipping boats and terrorizing fishermen. In 1917, English Businessman, Peter Grayson disappeared in the region, spawning rumors that he was claimed by the beast. South African prospector Lt. Fred Cornell claims to have encountered the Grootslang in 1910 and again in 1920, while prospecting for emeralds. On one occasion, he employed dynamite to dislodge it from a large rock in the Orange River, then shot at it with his rifle. Similar sightings continued into the early 1950’s.

It is said that every myth contains a seed of truth, which begs the question, just what exactly is roaming around in the Richtersveld? Africa has no shortage of big snakes, monitor lizards, and crocodiles; could one of these be the culprit? With a wealth of precious gems at stake, it does provide a tantalizing reason to find out.