The Reptarium

Bella, a very friendly Rhino Iguana, ©voyager, all rights reserved

Sorry to be absent the past few days. My adventure to Michigan put me into a crash cycle and it’s been slow climbing out. I’m feeling closer to normal today, but the brain fog is being stubborn and persistent. I hope I can string together a few sentences that make sense to tell you all about my amazing experience.

Content Warning – There are photos of snakes ahead. 

First, I’d like to thank you all for your good wishes. Going to the Reptarium was a big deal for me and having your support helped. I’d also like to thank Brian Barczyk of the Reptarium in Utica, Michigan for spending the time to take things slowly and for helping me conquer my fear a bit at a time. You heard that right…I conquered my fear of snakes and I am ridiculously proud of myself!

Brian began by introducing me to a few other reptiles and just allowing myself to get used to the snakes being close by. We started with the cutie at the beginning of this post. That’s Bella, a Rhino Iguana who thinks she’s a dog. She comes when called and loves affection. My friend and I spent about 15 minutes just petting her and feeding her blackberries.  I had no idea that lizards were so smart or friendly. Bella is one of Brian’s ambassador animals and she excels at her job.

Elvis and Brian doing a trick, ©voyager, all rights reserved

Brian’s Wife, Lori, helping with the finale. ©voyager, all rights reserved
























Elvis is off on his daily walk around the zoo©voyager, all rights reserved
Next, came Elvis the Asian Water Monitor. Elvis is also an ambassador animal and he’s a very smart and friendly guy. He lives below Bella and he was pawing at the glass for attention the entire time we spent feeding her berries. Elvis came for petting as soon as he was let out and then he and Brian did one of their tricks. He climbs right up to Brian’s chest and then Brian gets down on the ground and his wife Lori leads Elvis off with a training stick. Once he’s safely down the blue ball is taken away and replaced with a nice meaty treat. After that Elvis headed off for his daily wander around the zoo to explore.  Now it was time to meet the first snake. This is Honey and she’s a very gentle Ball Python. Brian kept control of her head and allowed me lots of time to get my hand up to her. He offered a supportive, gentle and encouraging patter that was calming and finally I reached out my hand. I was immediately surprised by how warm she was and her scales were smooth and I could feel her muscles twitching. It was only a little bit scary and Honey was very gentle.              

Look! I did it! This is Honey, a Piebald Ball Python, Photo by Janet B, all rights reserved

Verdi, a green Anaconda. ©voyager, all rights reserved

Next came Verdi, a very gentle green Anaconda. She’s another ambassador animal who is calm and friendly with people. Anaconda are the heaviest snakes in the world and she will grow up to be a very big girl. It was nice to meet her and I was glad she’s still only small. Her scales felt smoother than Honey’s and her muscles were a bit squishy because she wasn’t twitching.

Ricky, a Reticulated Python. ©voyager, all rights reserved

This is Ricky, a very large Reticulated Python. We just said hello from outside the glass. He’s a big boy and his head is huge. I was feeling very brave after touching Verdi, but then Brian had a bigger challenge for me.

This is Perdita, a Cow Reticulated Python. She was born all white and gains spots every time she sheds. She’s beautiful and is another friendly ambassador animal. Perdita will get to be much bigger than this, but she enjoys meeting people and was very gentle and patient. Brian was very good at maintaining control of her head and I almost enjoyed the hug she gave me. I am feeling very proud of myself in this photo.

Perdita, a Cow Reticulated Python who gave me a hug.

Helen, a blind snake who was born with no eyes. Photo by Janet B, all rights reserved

Finally I met Helen, a very gentle snake who was born without eyes. Brian hand fed her for months before she finally figured out how to manage on her own. She’s a curious snake who makes use of all the spaces in her tiered cage. Brian doesn’t know how she figured out how to find the higher levels and hiding spots. I was brave enough to hold her all by myself and I even enjoyed the feeling as she wrapped herself around my arm to hold on. Wow!

So there it is. My big adventure told in imperfectly perfect photos. As I said at the beginning, I’m ridiculously proud of myself. I’m not ready to seek snakes out just yet, but I think I’m past the immobilizing panic of seeing a snake in the wild. My thanks to my friend Janet for cheering me on and doing all the driving. Thanks especially to Brian Barczyk of the Reptarium for being so encouraging and patient. If you get a chance, you should check out his small zoo in Utica, Michigan. Brian and his wife, Laurie, run an impeccable family friendly facility and are obviously expert caregivers. All of the cages are well sized, naturalistic and designed to meet the individual needs of all of the different reptiles. The entire place was spotless and every animal seemed healthy and happy. Brian also has a youtube channel under his name Brian Barczyk or Snakebytes TV and it was through his daily inspirational videos that I came to think that I could actually do this. My trust in Brian is the reason we drove all the way to Michigan for this adventure and he is just as kind, genuine and caring in person as he is on his channel.





  1. says

    Yay! You should be proud of yourself. It sounds like Brian is an expert in reptiles and humans and bringing them together.

  2. avalus says

    I can only add my excitement, you can be very proud of yourself to meet your fear and overcome it. Reptiles are really amazing creatures.

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