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BEHIND THE SCENES

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The real nail biting part of diving with nile crocodiles is in the preparation. The long search while cruising on the river generates electric anticipation, completely captivating everyone on the boat.

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The day we took the video was the last dive of a 6 day expedition to visit the crocs in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. This trip was limited to one guest, Olga Michi, a photographer, journalist and explorer from Russia. Our journey into the croc’s habitat was conducted under the watchful eyes of my trusted safety diver, Walter Berardies, who shot the video.

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“Diving with these dinosaurs is not really scary to me.

Sure, they have a reputation for thrashing, biting, and violently feeding on unfortunate creatures like zebras, wildebeest and people too. We certainly respect these great predators, but for the record, they only feed on the surface; as careful divers, our only real fear is that we won’t find them.” – Amos

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The body of the Nile croc is perfectly colored for lying in wait, camouflaging it against the dark brown of the river, and we were only able to spot them once every two or three dives. When you dive with crocs, the first thing visible is always the threatening row of sharp white teeth extending out of the croc jaws, glowing through the muddy background of the murky river water.

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The first time I saw it, I was hit with fear that froze me in the water. The more I dived with crocs, the more the site of the teeth eventually became a great relief because that’s when I knew I’d found it, and the rest of the team could join in to peacefully capture images of this beautiful and rare apex predator. We would then return to the middle of the river for a safe exit.

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On the day of the video, we spotted a 3.5 meter croc resting in a narrow cut on the river bank. When it heard our vessel, it quickly slid out into the main river. We quickly turned up current, so we could dive with the current towards the croc, and we stopped, suited up and confirmed that we do not get into the narrow cut but stay on both side of it.

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In the Delta, visibility is limited to about 20 feet, but the croc spotted us too, and went hiding underwater along the dark riverbank. We all rolled down to the water at once and drift with the 1 – 2 knot current in close formation, towards the location where the croc was spotted.

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Our aim was to avoid entering the cut in the bank where we saw the croc and position ourselves on either side of it.

I was in the lead and the dive master behind me, and we both carried a GoPro attached to a pole, and it was my job to spot the croc. This is tricky while underwater, along the dark riverbank, in a fast current. I needed to move slowly so my eyes could grow accustomed to the low light. Most of the time I dug my knees into the sand or dragged my fins to slow my drift. If I missed the croc, it could creep up behind my team. By the time I realized, it could be too late.

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Now I had to fin very hard against the current, pulling myself across the bottom and searching for the elusive highly camouflage Croc. As I reached the narrow cut in the river where we spotted the croc, I stopped and prepared to look inside to see if the Croc had returned. What happened next is what you see at 0:10 in the movie.

The croc was returning to its den and had come between the safety diver (behind me) and myself. It became confused, and rushed the river bank, totally missing me, but hitting its head against the sandy embankment.

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The force of the blow created a big cloud of sand and a lot of confusion. The croc and I both made an effort to get out of the cloud of dust.

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As we swam away from each other my 4 feet long pole with the GoPro mounted on the end touched the croc’s jaw, and at speed of light, it bit the edge of the pole, and in one powerful twist of its head, it snatched the camera.

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Hoping the croc would let go of the GoPro, we followed it for the next few minutes along the sandy bottom of the river. The croc held its prize tight between its powerful jaws and sharp teeth, and although no longer threatened by our presence, we could do nothing to change its mind about giving up the GoPro.

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We noticed that its front left leg was cut off, and so we named our new friend Stumpy!

Stumpy likely lost his leg in a fight with another male, and we were happy to notice that he had apparently healed very well and was able to function normally

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