“You’re an adventure traveller, right?” said Ben as I entered the bar at Aqua Africa on a cruisy Sunday morning.
“Er, yeah,” I sensed a challenge, perhaps a dare, about to be offered.
Ben had suggested to come over every now and again to see if I could catch him just before he headed out for spear fishing and join him.
I had introduced myself, as was my habit of late, as an, “Adventure travel writer, self-proclaimed of course.” The title came with consequences. The consequences of ending up doing things that really, I shouldn’t be doing like jumping off the Victoria Falls Bridge – twice – and white water rafting (both events taking place in an inebriated state of mind).
“A crocodile was washed down into the bay in last night’s storm,” he said. “It made a lunge at me while we were bringing the boat in the heavy waters. I chased after it into the reeds, almost grabbed it with my hand.”
And it was, indeed, a huge storm that pounded the small town of Nkhata Bay. I was chilling with friends at the Butterfly Space Lodge, sitting on the wooden platform overlooking the waters, watching a UFO-looking cloud that appeared to want to devour the planet slowly roll in from Mozambique – lightening flashing across its façade.
I had walked back to Big Blue Backpackers to grab some dinner. It was about a 20-minute walk around the bay and just as I finished my pasta meal the storm erupted over the town.
No way I’m walking in that, I thought, reminded of the storms I battled when I crossed the Indian Ocean on a 47-foot sail boat.
Enter Sunday and Ben’s announcement of a croc-hunt.
“Meet here at sunset,” he said.
“Well, wait,” I began. “How big is it?”
“About 3-foot. 3.5,” Ben reckoned.
That’s not big enough to be a man-eater, I figured. Well, hoped more than figured.
To pass the time, I kayaked around the bay, taking a friend to a spot where one could jump off a 4-meter boulder into crystal clear water.
Fast-forward to sunset.
Ben had the spear gun set up. As we chilled on his balcony one of the workers called up to him and pointed to the water by the boat.
“Shit! That’s the croc!” he yelped and we launched into hunt mode.
I stared at the object in the water and although it didn’t appear to be moving it defiantly resembled a crocodile. It was floating by the scuba diving boat in shallow waters. Ben quietly entered the water and I crept up behind him.
As the sun was setting it was that difficult time of evening to tell what was what. Ben reached point-blank range and shot at the object, instantly killing the bit of black plastic it turned out to be.
Later, as it became darker, we waded by the reed-covered shoreline, almost walking the length of the bay, flashing our flashlights to see if we’d catch the reflection of the croc’s eyes.
We didn’t and swam back to the shore, crossing the deep channel where Ben dived down. I was a little too nerved to attempt a night dive. I love the water and I love swimming (I had gone skinny dipping with friends just two nights previous) but with a crocodile playing mind games on me, I felt like I should just play look-out until we reached the safety of the shores and took on our friends remarks for lack of crocodile for the braai.