Haji Mwachambuli grew up enjoying killing snakes in his Mwamanga village, in Diani, Kwale county.
But that was until he realised that he can make a fortune from them. What followed was years of training to master the art of a snake charmer, a hobby that has now grown to become his fulltime job.
Mwachambuli, 29, performs his acts for tourists in beaches and curious crowds at weddings. The father of three has now been performing for the past 20 years.
For each performance, he makes roughly Sh4,000, and despite knowing the perils, he is not about to call it quits.
In an interview, Mwachambuli took this journalist to his Mr Hamisi Arafat ‘Jungle Park’ where he learnt the skills of playing with snakes at a tender age.
The homestead is sub-divided into various sections where crocodiles, chameleons, tortoise and snakes are kept. The snake section is partitioned into smaller cubicles where some of the world’s most poisonous breeds are housed.
Mwachambuli, also known as Top K, says dealing with snakes requires special skills which he has learned from his master.
His reptile friends include a python, green Mamba, a puff adder and spitting cobra.
He said: “I hail from a family of snake charmers. Though it is not something everyone can do, I feel blessed to have excelled and mastered the art. I am proud of my talent.
He said he has so far mentored and trained about 30 youths.
“I want to transform the lives of my fellow youths who have been affected by drugs. As it stands now three of the youths who used to take drugs are now recovering. I usually have some session with them and encourage and try to bring them back to normal,” said Mwachambuli.
But it is not always smooth sailing performing as a snake charmer.
A few years ago, while performing at Bidi Badu Restaurant in Diani Beach, the unexpected happened. A snake he was playing with got stuck inside his trousers.
He said he later realised that among the audience was an old man ‘who looked at him with bad eyes.’ He suspects the old man caused the strange misfortune.
“I understand not everyone is happy with what I do, and in my job you need to protect yourself from evil people who use juju or black magic to make you fail. I remember that day I did carry my charm to protect me, but I quickly remembered an advice from my master that once such an incident occurs you need to remove your trousers or wear clothes inside out,” he said.