We were on a prowl up to Cairns, where we decided to start heading south. Since Palm Island, I was longing to see the famous estuarine reptiles in their natural habitat. But if they are there and dangerous, they are also very shy and quite camouflaged. In Innisfails and Cairns, despite our efforts, we didn’t see any. I started to be a bit upset. I could blame only myself for being absolutely terrified of those contemporaneous to dinosaurs. You see, our dinghy is very small and stand over the water only by a few centimeters, so it was out of question (for me anyway) to go croc exploring in the mangroves. I also stopped any kind of fishing activities. And I hurried up like a waterlogged cat to the shore every time I was stepping out of the dinghy. But do you know how crocs eat you? Well, first they stalk you and as soon as they see an opening they grab you. They weigh hundred of kilos so any resistance is futile. They armored body can only be pierced by a gun so my habit of carrying my diving knife with me was useless. Once they get a hold on you they do a “death spiral” and basically turn endlessly on themselves to shake you like a doll and break most of your bones. But you are not dead yet, maybe you are still even conscious; while you see your relatives and the shore disappear, unable to move a finger and being taken under the water. Then they drown you and put you under a log to mature nicely so they can eat your tasty rotting flesh. It’s an horror to even think about it, isn’t it? Compared to this, the sharks that make you bleed to death and leave you pass to unconsciousness by blood loss is a mercy.
Anyway, being scared of croc is very common. I just happened to have a highly tuned instinct of survival, call it irrational fear if you want.
So, no crocs in Cairns, none in Innisfails, and none when we went cast netting, at thigh deep, at dusk in the big mangrove creek, in Zoe Bay (that was risky, right). Ben was, I was keeping an eye on him.
On our way back we stopped at Scraggy Point, on the eastern mangrovy side of Hinchinbrook. There, everything was screaming of croc danger: a little beach, full of wallaby tracks; a little creek with steep sandy banks, not quite clear, 3 meter deep at most and fenced by a door put there by National parks. Oh yes, crocs signs everywhere, of course. Ben and I were careful when we stepped back in our dinghy, keeping an eye out for any suspect wavelet.
The tide was flooding then and we were heading back to Inara. As I looked into Ben’s face, I saw some surprise, wondering and amusement as je was looking over my shoulder. I was sure he was plotting a joke as he said: “Look at that log over there, Anna, it might be one.” I turned around and saw… a log, two hundred meters away, bobbing slightly up and down, drifting as logs do in the flooding tide. With a bit of imagination you could think that the round part of the log was the snout of a crocodile coming out but not more.
I turned back to Ben “Yeah, it’s a log, alright. I don’t think it’s a crocodile, it’s just a dumb log. I don’t believe you, I think you’re joking, right?” Ben answered “Ok, well, let’s have a look then” and he changed course toward the innocent log at increased speed. It was still a hundred meter away when all sudden….. the “log” sunk down without a wave in a split of a second. My horrified expression might have been quite funny to witness but I remember myself being quite clear in saying : “ Oh my god, It dived down, It’s a fucking crocodile, please Ben, go back to Inara quick!” And all my attention was focused in reaching the boat.
As we approached Inara, I swiftly jumped onboard and hurried up to the bridge deck roof, the highest point possible. Ben came to sit next to me and we enjoyed watching twilight slightly creeping in. Fifteen minutes later we could see an irregularity in the surface of the water close to where our crocodile had plunged, a hundred meter away. With no imagination at all you could clearly see the snout, the scales of the back and the flicking tail delicately covered with triangular back and white flag shaped scales. We grabbed the binoculars, excited as if we were watching a puppet show. We could see all the details and we watched our first and unique wild croc drifting past. It was way bigger than the dinghy, at least three meters from snout to tail. It was incredible to observe how a perfect imitation of a log it was: any movement was imperceptible; it was going exactly at the speed of the tide, not a ripple to be seen. It went on scooting the beach where we launched our dinghy not even 20 minutes ago and then slowly drifted down toward the creek where it dived down suddenly again, getting ready to ambush its prey at dusk. That’s how I like to see crocs: far away from the safety of our boat. Unfortunately, I decide to not grab the camera and enjoy every moment I could observe the log full of fangs.