The Crocodile Incident on a Nighttime Safari
May 29th, 2017
Adele and I were the only overnight guests during the second night of our stay at the Jungle Land Lodge. While it might seem creepy, it ended up being pretty fantastic to be there solo. We could do what we wanted when we wanted. And the excursions were set to our level of fun. Even if our level of fun was to nap in a hammock with a glass of wine in hand.
On our first night we were taken on a night safari after dinner. We didn't know what to expect on a night safari. Adele and I piled into an open-air boat and drove out into the night. Captain Carl found a few baby crocodiles and the sky opened. I donned my Walt Disney World poncho and was a bit miserable, because poncho (I hate ponchos). I was still ready to go out a second time. But I not so secretly hoped I wouldn't need the poncho again.
Luiz was our guide for our second night. Where Captain Carl was snarky and lackadaisical (which is not a bad thing. It's kind of how I live my life every day), Luiz was smiling and enthusiastic. He was very chatty, often apologizing because of his less than perfect English. Considering I could barely ask for water at a restaurant in Spanish, I assured him that he was doing a great job. Because seriously, if he didn't say he thought he was only 45% fluent, I'd have thought he was at 100%.
After dinner, Luiz announced it was time for the night safari. "But we'll take a different route this time." The open-air boat had room for 20 or 30 people. There were four of us. Adele and I were in the second row, Luiz was in the front row with the powerful light, and in the back was a driver. We had our life jackets on and the ponchos were in a bag just in case. We were ready to see the evening in a different way. Let's do this.
Luiz scanned the trees, occasionally pointing out the glowing eyes attached to an owl. We saw little tornadoes coming up from the river (and promptly decided we needed to ask Tom Skilling what was happening here). Occasionally, Luiz stopped and tried to grab a crocodile. The croc would always evade Luiz, but he'd sit back down, smiling and exclaim how that crocodile was just too fast. We even ventured out into the canal (a no-go at night) and came face to face with the US Coast Guard.
After time on the water, we began our journey back to the lodge. The whole time Luiz was still working the flashlight, hoping to see something important. When the light fixed to an area to the left of the boat, Luiz motioned to the driver. The boat slowed to a halt. Luiz handed me the spotlight and before I knew what was happening, he jumped from the boat on all fours onto a crocodile.
I'm sure a noise like "OOOOHHHHHHHHHHH!!!" escaped my mouth. I've seen this kind of jump on TV before. Never in person. This was actual jungle life!! Luiz wrapped his arms around the crocodile and wrestled the crocodile into the boat.
This thing was large. Later, Luiz said it was probably a teenaged croc. But it didn't matter at this moment. Huge crocodile!! Luiz spent some time looking over the crocodile and posing for the camera.
I think where things went wrong was the moment when Luiz wanted a picture of himself kissing the croc. One second, Luiz was kissing a crocodile. The next second, the crocodile was loose and running through the boat unsupervised.
I'm gonna need you to take a moment to really let that sink in. There was a crocodile running loose in a boat with two city-folk tourists and two people who hopefully know what they are doing.
Before I knew what had happened, Adele was standing on the bow of the boat with Luiz. My legs were hanging over the side of the boat with my back arched over the seats. For real, I don't know what happened here. I think my lizard brain believed the croc would have to leap to eat me if my body wasn't at seat-level. Now having my legs hang from a boat close to where the crocodile lives full time was probably not the best idea, but it was my way to survive that particular moment.
Side note, while I attempted to evade the rogue crocodile, I want to let everyone know that my phone stayed safe, clutched in a death grip in my left (non-dominant) hand. So we know I can save what I love most in the world in a doomsday scenario.
The crocodile was in the middle or back of the boat when Luiz helped me untangle my body’s answer to the “flight or fight” question. I joined Adele on the bow of the boat and Luiz went to the back of the boat to figure out how the hell to get out of this situation.
Safe on the complete opposite side of the boat, we spent the next few minutes laughing so hard that there was a possibility that one of us would wet our pants. On the other side of the boat, Luiz and the driver were positioning themselves strategically while creating a noose to grab the croc.
There was rustling on the other side of the boat. The noose was working, but the crocodile did put up a fight. The boys in the back of the boat worked together and hoisted the croc up to clear the boat and be dumped back into the water.
Luiz made his way back to where we were still laughing hysterically (with a bit of shaking for good measure). Adele and I stepped off of the bow of the boat and sat back down on the padded seats. Everyone on the boat unanimously agreed we should stop looking for wildlife and immediately return to the lodge.
Once we returned to the lodge, we surveyed the damage. I knew I’d have a serious bruise on my back (I did). Our arms were hilariously dirty from the frantic flailing in a muddy boat. We all quickly grabbed a cup of wine and recapped what we had just gone through. Then we grabbed a second one. The next day, Luiz would occasionally stop and look at us and exclaim how much fun he had the night before. I’d just shake my head and laugh. He wasn’t wrong. He wasn’t wrong at all.