Day 33: “Don’t worry, these crocodiles are shy” – kayaking on Lola’s 10th birthday

A big day for us. Lola’s 10th birthday.

We have been counting down all trip and finally the day is here.

We had a special, high adrenaline adventure in store….

First, we had lots of lovely messages and thank you for those, all greatly appreciated across the trinity of wattsapp, text and email.

Luce had bought various presents in the UK which have been hidden in our suitcase and combined with some cards Lola had a good breakfast.

Then we got ourselves into the zone and went off to canoe with crocodiles, or at least to go on a river where crocodiles live.

I made a schoolboy error a few days ago. I told Cesca about the crocs, and since then she has put her small but firm foot down and she refused to come with us. She knows her mind, and so Lola and I headed for the river alone.

After the briefest of briefings (‘You know how to paddle, right?’), we stepped into the kayak.

‘Er, how likely are we to see crocodiles?’

‘We see them most days, but don’t worry about the crocs’ the guide says.

‘Why not?’ Lola was scared and I’m comfortable enough in my skin to admit that I was too.

‘Well, the crocs in this river are quite shy.’ That’s interesting, I’m not sure that I’ve come across introverted crocodiles before. I can’t quite get the vision of a croc trying to board our kayak out of my mind and I’m sure that in all the nature documentaries I’ve watched the word ‘shy’ was never mentioned.

The guide continues, ‘And no tourist has ever been killed in this river’.

‘What about local people?’ I ask. The guide doesn’t respond.

I repeat the question and he paddles off.

Gulp.

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We head off. Every floating log or stick becomes a sleeping crocodile and a mild sort of eco-tourist paranoia settles in. Are we having fun? As each branch morphs into a croc I wonder if this is how Roald Dahl received inspiration for The Crocodile story that some of you will know.

We spot birds, including four types of heron (green, tiger, great, night). We see 1000s of crabs sitting on the mangrove mud.

We paddle on. Cautiously, but we are not stupid – we keep in touch with the guide’s kayak.

After half an hour it happens – ‘Look, a crocodile’ our guide says softly, as if he doesn’t want to disturb it. The crocodile is about 50 metres ahead, at 90 degrees to our kayak. We slow down. ‘Oh my god’ comes from my paddling companion.

The croc slowly sinks into the water and then 15 seconds later we find ourselves kayaking over the exact spot where it went in.

So now we know – we are floating on top of crocs. I’m thrilled and nervous, focusing on the fact that we’re fine as the crocs are, in fact, quite shy.

The gorgeous birthday girl – hunting crocs on her 10th birthday. At least that’s what we’ll tell people.

We carry on and see some baby crocs sunbathing. Thankfully our guide has eagle eyes and spotted three babies – they are so camouflaged that we would never have seen them. Apparently they get eaten by herons and other types of birds, and also other crocodiles.

A baby croc sunbathing.

We are between the dry and the wet season. In the dry season there is a lot more birdlife here (Dec – Mar) and in the wet season the river morphs into a different beast, much higher, much faster and at times too dangerous to kayak on.

Red mangroves. They are intense and oppressive and impressive. Kayaking down a narrow river flanked by mangroves is strangely claustrophobic.

We finish in one piece, a hot, humid and magical couple of hours on a Costa Rican river.

I am so proud of Lola who was cool and brave throughout. One tough little cookie.

For the 300th time this trip…how lucky are we…..

Termite nest.

A great Heron, or should that be Great Heron, from my phone camera hence at low res.

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