Interview: Chasing Cobras & Waves Around Indo With Luka Raubenheimer
Not your typical nine to five.
Words by Harry Webber July 1, 2024

You learn a few things chatting with Luka Raubenheimer…

Not about snakes (though he is a snake expert); not about documentary filmmaking (though he is an award-winning director); not even about art (thought he is handy with a paintbrush). The main lesson you learn from a chat with Luka is that *deep inhale* life is made up of experiences and it’s up to you to chase them.

Luka stalks his passions like a wolf, often funding his own documentaries and expeditions, heading to remote corners of the Asia-Pacific region in search of the reptiles, people and places that intrigue him. His Fauna Friends initiative does not produce your standard nature documentaries. Their films are equal parts animal appreciation and entertainment, with Luka and pals providing off-kilter commentary as they track down fauna to share with us.

Stylistically his films vary depending on the material. 2020’s Six bucks and more Dragons.F.U.N (Far Up North) is warts-and-all, gonzo road trip chasing crocs in Far North Queensland, while last year’s Here For Now is more of a whimsical tutorial, complete with animation and earnest narration, like what would happen if Wes Anderson, David Attenborough and the Mighty Boosh had an orgy.

Luka’s just gotten back from his latest quest, teaming up with his partner, creative contributor, and pro surfer Jaleesa Vincent to track down the Queen Cobra in Indonesia and surf some waves along the way. SNAKES AND SURF BREAKS – Cobra in the Kingdom of Jinn is coming soon, but in the meantime, get to know Luka a little better below, and don’t forget to become a Fauna Friend and follow along on socials.

What and/or who shaped your appreciation of nature?

Reptiles and my mum.

Is this a full time gig for you? How do you make a living?

Yes, making wildlife documentaries is a full time gig, we just wrapped filming our new documentary titled: SNAKES AND SURF BREAKS – Cobra in the Kingdom of Jinn.

I’ve been working in the field of ecology for the last five years rescuing and relocating wildlife for a company my friend Ryan owns and operates, and I also continue to work as a freelance filmmaker, making films that I want to make. My partner Jaleesa Vincent and myself are currently making a surfing musical for Billabong, set to be released by the end of 2024.

When I first met you, you were modelling and making funny videos in Sydney. Upon reflection, how do you feel about those times?

Now I reflect on those strange times with positivity and gratitude. I made some great friends and we had some great times. I only lived in Sydney for six months, I moved there to attend AFTRS film school but dropped out to tour with our old punk band Cloacas. I can’t live in the city.


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Do you consider your films to be docos? How would you describe your style?

My wildlife documentaries are documentaries… I write a script and imagine the story unfolding. When we start shooting, everything changes and the script adapts.

Describe said style in 3 words?

Original wild weird

Who are your influences

Steve Irwin, Malcom Douglas, Peter Jackson, Wes Anderson, Taika Waititi

Modern day docs are extremely high tech and use massive budgets, how do you compete with that?

I make wildlife documentaries that will hopefully connect with the people out there that fall asleep in an Attenborough epic. My films are not for ecological experts but rather for my friends and the people around me. I want my films to be relatable, to be the bridge between skatepark surfer kids and Mother Nature. Hopefully I can inspire some people to become nature enthusiasts!

What’s the thing you’ve seen that’s taken your breath away?

I have seen many beautiful things in my life that have taken my breath away. From close encounters with venomous snakes, to Himalayan mountains and good movies, sunsets and wild giraffes, children dancing and old people laughing, giant crocodiles and traditional ceremonies with indigenous mobs from the top end.

Recently while filming in Indonesia, we met a local man named Ketut that loved snakes and animals. He was such a good person, with purple eyes and a big smile he told us that he would show us his jungle. So, that night we went adventuring through the thick jungle with Ketut leading the way, cutting a path through the dense undergrowth with his sickle. We got really lost and found two rare snake species! It was a real experience. Finally we emerged from the jungle around 1AM, sitting down we shared some local arak on the side of the road. It was night I will never forget.

What is the scariest thing that’s happened to you while filming?

Once I was filming a wild elephant in Sri Lanka, it was behind a tall army base’s electric fence, so I got really close to try and capture a close-up of its beautiful eye without any fence in frame…

I was concentrating on the shot while the elephant leaned against one of the fence posts. With a powerful push, the elephant pushed over the electric fence! I jumped backwards and the fence landed at my feet… Suddenly I was face to face with a big angry elephant. My tuk tuk driver had started driving away by now and I had to run down the road and jump in, the elephant stormed over the fallen fence and after us down the road, ears flared and trunk trumpeting. My driver Najeem thought I was an idiot. He was right, it was way too close. Don’t mess with elephants.

What lessons have you learnt while making docs that you apply to everyday life?

Sobriety. Not smoking weed and not drinking too many beers all the time. Especially when I’m out in the bush. I want to be ready for anything. You never know when you’re going to bump into something amazing.


SNAKES AND SURF BREAKS will be a series of feature wildlife documentaries, bringing the world of Mother Nature nerds together with cool and arty surfers and creatives. Collaborating with experts, professionals, citizens of the world and creative icons. Adventure based expeditions into the unknown looking for snakes and surf breaks! Aiming to inspire people to care for Mother Nature and get outdoors, be your own weird self and follow your dreams. Sounds corny but it’s going to be great.

I love snakes and I love surfing. So I’ll do what I love. Travel the world looking for wildlife and waves. Sharing it with my love Jaleesa Vincent, she also loves waves and wildlife! It’s the perfect combo for us.

The film is set to be released in 2025. We are already planning the next SNAKES AND SURF BREAKS adventure…

How was the shoot? What did you do? Is the mission accomplished?

The shoot was great, enduring and rewarding. We basically travelled around to different places of Indonesia looking for a Cobra. Walking day and night through jungles, mangroves, city drains and coastal paradises. We found heaps of snakes and heaps of surf! Met some really nice people and ended up in some pretty crazy and dangerous situations.

Sometimes the jungle would get the better of us and there was definitely a few nights that I thought the Fauna Friends team wouldn’t be my friends after this. Heaps of sweaty, mosquito fuelled nights lost in ancient jungles where leopards could pounce and man-eating snakes could strike at any moment. Haha, It was great. I miss it.

Tell me about your collaborative partnership with Jaleesa? How does that work?

We are deeply in love artists just doing our thing. We support each other’s projects and we critique each other’s work. We have heaps of things in common, but we’re also two very different people, different artists that somehow balance each other out.

What do you say to people who want to do what you do?

Do what you love, talk to your friends and family, be nice to strangers, be nice to yourself, finish it and start again, pick up rubbish by yourself, find new places, zoom out, care less about numbers, remind yourself of “now” every now and again, listen, plan, improvise, close your eyes and draw with your opposite hand, face your fears, breath slowly, eat good food, drink lots of water, read and sleep, smell everything and keep going.

Where do you see Fauna Friends heading in the future?

I’m currently on a flight to Tokyo, so heading to Japan right now. After that, I got some plans…

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