Thursday, December 3, 2015

Crocodile Encounters


On our free day, Jordan and I decided to walk down one of the roads in Palo Verde National Park to look for crocodiles in the Tempisque River. We went at around 11 am, which is low tide, and apparently the optimal time for crocodile spotting. The walk is around 4 miles to the river and back, and we left well before noon, giving ourselves plenty of time to get back before lunch.
            We didn’t see much wildlife along the way except for the mosquitoes, which were our constant companions. The walk took a longer than we had anticipated (we walked slow due to heat and laziness). We finally reached the river and made our way down the dock, which was quite small and didn’t seem all that stable (we weren’t reassured by the sign that said its maximum capacity is 5 people).
Before we left on our crocodile hunt, our professor had warned us not to sit on the dock and dangle our legs off the edge, because apparently crocodiles can swim up under the dock and grab you by the feet. We were amused by that idea when he first told us, but once we were actually out on the dock I realized how vulnerable we really were out there, and took the warning more seriously. The river is wide and the water is pretty murky, so it took us a while to spot our first crocodile along the far bank. At first we weren’t sure if it was a floating branch or a log, but then it opened its mouth out of the water a couple times, and we were no longer in doubt.
I definitely would not want to swim in that water despite the heat of the sun, which was pounding down from directly overhead. We had a total of six crocodile sightings, though some of them may have been the same crocodile surfacing in different locations (and I’m sure there were some we didn’t spot, they’re pretty sneaky). I wish we’d brought binoculars to get a better look at them; most of the ones we saw were intimidatingly large, but also pretty far away from us. Jordan and I stayed out on that dock for longer than we intended, and ended up being quite late for lunch (it was absolutely worth it).
The best surprise came a few nights later when one of the researchers working at Palo Verde came to talk to us about her research on crocodiles, and brought a 2 month old crocodile that we got to hold! It was surprisingly soft and gentle, and I found it hard to imagine that the adorable creature in my hands could grow up to be the fearsome predators we saw lurking in the river.

Rose Hinson
Duke University

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