We had two choices: a crocodile hunt where we’d peruse marshes for those nocturnal reptiles or a spotlight viewing of the river growth for an animal or two. I said aye to the croc venture, and most followed suit.
After boarding two airfoils at Lamanai Lodge, we sped across the lagoon towards the marsh reeds. Airfoils being open-sided boats, as we approached, Victoria and I instinctively edged towards the middle of our seat. They’re are also loud, necessitating the noise-reducing headphones the guides hand you. Since it’s night, a spotlight helps search for potential crocs, their red eyes gleaming in the white circle. The combination of this blinding light and roaring motor should deter these silent swimmers, but, well, they’re use to it—and they’re the ones that do the threatening around here.
Our airfoil driver and guide, Arturo, scanned the spotlight across the water so quickly that I was still looking at the last spot even as he’d moved to another. Right, center, right, left…it was dizzying. Not long after invading the marshes, a pair of eyes shone in the light. The motor was lowered and our croc catcher, George, mounted to his feet. If I peered into the churned-up waters, I saw the baby croc watching, slithering away from our incoming mass. George dipped the snare into the water, slid it towards the croc’s head, and sprung on it—except that this one was slick. The only thing we caught was the thorny bush our airfoil had drifted into during our hunting ruckus.
After some fruitless searching, we ventured farther into the marshes. A yelped escaped Victoria when George splashed into the water during a second spotting. We both noted that he really didn’t need to get his jeans wet just for us. But this one was equally allusive, and it wasn’t until the third try, George waist-deep yet again, that one was hauled onboard.
The women (everyone except the guides) fretted over the croc at our feet. Did the snare hurt? Does the camera flash scare him? Was there a purpose to his “torment”? Respectively, the answers were two double negatives and a yes, no torment involved. When crocs are caught, a tour volunteer records research measurements as the guide flips and dangles the croc. The task came down to me.
Between answering our odd, sometimes perverse (does it go out the same hole?) questions, Arturo read the croc’s stats one by one as George steadied him, mouth bound by a rubber band. I came to the male/female box on my chart, the demonstration of which required quite the invasion on his under half. I mean, her under half. Arturo had presumed our catch was male, since it gave George a hearty struggle, but it was a feisty female.
Time for photo ops. George could have sat between Victoria and me, securing the croc, but that, of course, was not what we opted for. No, we wanted to hold it as Arturo prepared his camera. Victoria was first. When the croc, now named Joaquina (we had named it Joaquin before the sex was determined), was passed to me, I clutched its thick neck and tail. Then it thrashed wildly. Somehow I managed not to fling it into the water, but chuck it back to George. The situation calmed, and Victoria bent over in laughter, I had another go. The camera flashed, and within a second, George was cradling it instead.