Big saltwater crocodiles are, to me, a lot like waterspouts and active volcanoes — I’m fascinated by them and love to see them — as long as I’m far enough away to not feel threatened. They are, much like my second wife, both dangerous and unpredictable.
Staying far enough away from danger recently kept a poor bloke trapped for two weeks. His prison: remote Governor Island off northern Australia. His captor: a 20-foot saltwater crocodile.
While details in many news reports over the past couple of days remain sketchy, somehow the New Zealand tourist reached the uninhabited island by kayak. I would guess the monster croc didn’t notice him or the odds are he never would have reached the shore. But when he was ready to kayak back to wherever he’d come from, the man discovered that he was staying there on the Hotel California Plan: He could check out but never leave. That’s because repeated attempts to paddle away resulted in a quick U-turn back to shore when monster inevitably spotted him and started making a beeline for the kayak.
The croc, perhaps not having realized that Ryan was alone, may have been waiting for him to be voted off the island.
A local chap, who rescued Ryan, said he was familiar with that particular beast. He had been alongside it previously it in his 20-foot boat, and the big lizard was just about the same length.
Aussies take their “salties” very seriously indeed, and with good reason. They are fearless, and attacks on people (often fatal) are common. After all, we’re talking about predators that are well-known to bring down water buffalo, and even when considerably smaller than Ryan’s would-be attacker, will weigh 600 to 2,000 pounds.
From a week of incredible sights in northwest Australia’s Kimberley Peninsula many years ago, I find that one of my most enduring memories is going on the aft deck of a mothership anchored in a remote river mouth and seeing a croc or two or maybe none around dinnertime. But just as soon as darkness fell and the boat lights came on, suddenly there would be many pairs of bright-red eyes like so many glowing coals, just above the surface, slowly circling the boat. “If you get up at night to take of any business, mate,” one of the crew said, “do not go back on that fantail. It’s too close to the water.” I took his advice to heart.
Of course there’s also the matter of Ryan being in a kayak in croc waters. Whaddya, kidding? Bad idea. I love to kayak-fish, but not that much.
To me, part of the appeal of fishing an area like northern Australia is the chance to see the amazing saltwater crocodile up close and personal — but not too close or too personal, such as from a large boat with a high freeboard.