From the light plane aerodrome to the entrance to the national park there is a twenty minute drive past fields of corn and other crops then through villages before crossing a broad sluggish river that is not so benign in the wet season. Although this is the park boundary local people are allowed to fish there with special permits. But it is not the law that is their main adversary but the enormous crocodiles that live in the waterway.
Reaching lengths of 20 feet (6 metres) and weighing over 1500 pounds (620 kg) these huge predators are capable of attacking all but the largest of African animals and have no problems snacking on the occasional human.
As we drive along the river ban towards the lodge some twenty kilometres our guide Malcolm concentrates on telling us about the plethora of animals whose lives revolve closely around the river. Hippos provide nutrients for many fish with their dung. Kingfisher perch on branches to look for prey. Numerous other birds follow the hippos and elephants when they stir up the water and disturb fish, insects, frogs and other small animals....and so on...the list is exhaustive and fascinating.
But it is the crocodiles that are the apex predators along the river and just before we turn inland we are privileged to see a truly massive example of these fearsome predators. The croc is lying on a small island its mouth open to regulate temperature and in doing so it displays a formidable array of teeth. Malcolm estimates its length at around 4 to 4.5 meters.
Later in our travels we will see many large crocodiles but this first sighting of a big croc is one that will always reside in our memories.
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