Well, this was one of the scariest moments of my life! See the photo top left? See the croc on the left and the tree on the right, and I could just about fit in the water that is beneath them? See the croc on the right which is the croc in the photo on the left (if you see what I mean!). Well, that tree is where I was standing when that crocodile decided to come get personal with me!
It all started the morning of June 27 2009 when we were staying at a hotel near the Victoria Falls in Livingstone, the very last day of our trip. That hotel has a number of nature trails, so we thought, "hey, we are pretty experienced in the bush now, let's go and see what we can see".
So off we went and had a lovely time birdwatching and gradually meandering our way along the nature trail back to the hotel grounds.
At the end of the path we were on, the "entrance back to the hotel main gardens" took the shape of a large manicured lawn and a sizeable pond. The pond had a viewing platform set from the bank and extending right out to above the middle of the water. It all looked very manicured and safe, so we didn't think anything of it. Had we walked further round we would have seen the warning sign...
As we entered that area, I spotted an interesting bird up the tree that you can see the base of on the right of the photo above left. Hoping to get closer for a photo, I walked along the narrow path alongside the pond towards the tree, pond on my right, bush and reeds on the left. The bird stayed there quite obligingly (I expect it knew it was quite safe given what happened a few moments later!) and I managed to get right up to the tree...
Camera to my face taking photos, there was suddenly a horrid hissing noise and a dramatic scufflement and rustling of the reeds to my left. As if in one fluid moment, I dropped the camera (thank god for straps!), turned, looked down, saw croc lurching towards me with its mouth rather near my leg and leapt kind of around it and fled in a mass of adrenaline back down the path, neatly side-skipping my friend Frank (who had been slowly coming up the path behind me) in the process.
In fact, Frank said he nearly grabbed me to get me to calm down to say a) croc wasn't following and b) be careful not to fall into the pond. Luckily he had the sense not to grab me as such was my blind panic and intent to get away that it may have made me mistep and fall into the pond anyway where, no doubt, more crocs awaited!
I stood on the grassy lawn at a very safe distance from the pond, shaking. It was then that I saw the sign "beware crocodiles". How stupid that there appeared to be only one sign and that it faced the wrong way for us to have seen it upon entering the area from the nature trail.
Once I had recovered my composure, I walked onto the viewing platform to look across to the bank where said croc was sitting. I couldn't resist lobbing a bread roll at it in a temper (some of the stuff I'd been carrying to feed the birds). It hit croc on head and the thing launched itself upwards and that too made me think, my god, if croc had been intent on getting me when I kind of leapt over it, it could have!
Though croc was by no means full size, the photo above right (courtesy of Frank - I was too shaken to take any photos) shows it could certainly have inflicted a hectic deal of damage! When I told our guide the story after, he couldn't believe it - judging by how he told the story to various staff at the hotel, they were all very concerned - I just hope nothing bad happened to the croc because of me (i.e. it get killed). Now when I look at that photo, I feel a cold chill come over me, and my legs feel kind of funny, at the thought of what could have happened that day, on our last day on that particular trip to Africa...
The moral of the story? Well, having been lucky enough to experience several trips to Africa before this one, I'd kind of got blasé about it all. So I told myself after that, never, ever get complacent when you are in Africa - there are all sorts of things that can get you, some of which have sharp teeth (crocs), some of which are plain mean (buffalo), some of which can get you in their panic to get to water (hippo), some of which can get you invisibly (diseases). And, in the case of crocs and hippos, never go walking near water, or especially where there is cover (e.g. reeds) as you never know what might be lurking therein...
Below are some excellent resources about african reptiles: