Quality time with the African Crocodile: river diving with one of the world’s greatest apex predators
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Nature has a way of bestowing her gifts among all us creatures in a perfectly complementary fashion: the African crocodile has a bite that can crush our skulls like an egg, and our skulls hold a brain that knows enough about crocodiles to be afraid—be very afraid. That’s because, as we were growing up, we paid careful attention to what we saw on TV—Tarzan could beat a crocodile in the water, but nobody else could; and Captain Hook was only afraid of one thing—the thing that gave him that hook. Well, if he’d been smart enough to have Amos along with him, today we would know Captain Hook’s real name. (The proof: Amos has four decades of leading tours among the Big Animals with a perfect safety record.) If you study Big Animals the way Amos does, before you enter their world you know their environment, their biology, and a comprehensive range of their behaviors. After all, it’s their reality, not ours. Their reality includes getting up to 20 feet long, with 68 teeth on those jaws (see egg reference, above), so Amos takes every precaution, using the most experienced crocodile guides in Africa, who have dived safely with crocs for over a decade. In June and July, it’s winter in Botswana, and the flooded waters of the Okavango Delta approach a reasonable clarity, with visibility up to 30 feet, which is good for humans with cameras, but not for crocs. Crocodiles have spent 84 million years evolving to survive in near-zero visibility, so their underwater eyesight is poor, while their other senses are good. They can make out large shadows at the surface (which is where they catch big prey like zebra and wildebeest), but down below they can only hunt diving birds and small fish. Another win for scuba divers. Surrounding the river lodge where the expedition is based are some of the most enchanting creatures in southern Africa, and an equally good subject for your camera: hippos, fish eagles, and every African animal that comes to the water to drink. If you’ve been wondering what kind of vacation might reward you with images that people will never forget, croc-diving with Amos is truly an adventure of storybook proportions. Peter Pan would approve.