The Crocodile Man

Posted on May 27, 2018


It’s not often I meet someone who leaves an impression on me. But this particular adventurer has regaled me with stories that have left me wide-eyed and in disbelief. We’ll call him The Crocodile Man (TCM).

I’ve often said if I was male, I would have accomplished more and taken more risks. Being female comes with drawbacks. Men never think about personal safety the same way women do.

TCM came to The Caribbean like everyone else to seek out his fortune and have a slice of paradise. He bought a yacht off a wealthy ex pat for $1 because “that’s all it was worth,” he was broke had no work and started off doing odd jobs to survive. He’s tenacious, I’ll give him that and he has spirit.

He’s been here four years and makes the weights for the dive schools on this side of the island. He is now employed by a millionaire yacht owner to do maintenance and other jobs for his boat and home. He’s started up a pearl business with a colleague and continues to work on restoring his own boat which is a labour of love. Eventually he’s planning to sail to Latin America.

He’s a diver with his own set of rules. He doesn’t wear a BCD (buoyant control device). He straps a tank to his back using a makeshift backpack and with just weights descends on lung capacity alone. He moves fast in the water and is very svelte. He spear fishes lionfish and then hand feeds them to the sharks. He showed me the sites he’s dived around Antigua that remind me of Indonesia. Teeming with life. Why don’t the dive schools go there? It’s too far out almost 40km and no one will spend that amount of money on fuel or time. Plus these are areas he has found going off on his own. He dives alone without a buddy and is fearless.

He lived for many years in Botswana and bought a piece of land there where he built a very simple thatched house. He raised chicken but their numbers increased so fast they started attracting predators which freaked his groundsman out – big pythons, cobras etc. Africans do not like snakes!! He is what I’d describe as a true hard-as-nails South African. You’d not guess it looking at him. He knows everyone on this island and has befriended people in high places. His charisma and audacity have been a passport to getting access to privately owned islands to fish for pleasure and he’s rubbed shoulders with the ultra wealthy. At 42 he has really lived and cheated death numerous times.

He’s been hired by International film crews to take them diving with Nile Crocodiles in Botswana’s Okavango River and had some narrow escapes with both crocodiles and hippos. He’s answered so many questions I have about wildlife and put holes in all my theories about “how to escape when…”. He quit diving with crocs after too many close calls.

The film footage he’s shown me and photos are impressive. One picture shows him holding a 3m salt water croc at bay with a pole while he kneels on the bottom of a murky African river bed, back arched. He looks vulnerable and the image looks terrifying. Why doesn’t this guy have his own programme? He is camera shy. But his anecdotes are side-splittingly-funny especially with his thick Afrikaans accent.

He quit diving professionally as a divemaster after an old woman took out her teeth to lay them on the side of the pool. That was enough. TCM he doesn’t like “babysitting divers” if you go out with him you have to keep up. Am I tempted? Hell yes. Have I done it? No.

He’s told me about exploding hippos and being covered in a stench that lasts days while camped out in a dugout. Being chased around a tent by a bull elephant yelling at the female ex pats inside not to panic and that everything was under control. Bitten by poisonous spiders. I’ve seen gruesome pictures of a finger infection that he developed after a spine of something from a dirty river in Africa went into it. He very nearly lost it and how the so-called local “doctor” literally convinced him to dig a slice of his finger out to save it.

Some people think nicking a traffic cone is rebellious. TCM has zip-lined a long-horned goat from Antigua and Barbuda’s third island, Redonda, to a sailing dingy. The goats are non native and were brought over by people a century ago. He and some friends sailed out a year ago, swam to the island and then scaled a 300m steep rock cliff face to get up to the top. The video is crazy. The animal was blindfolded and carefully harnessed. When they tried to carry one down it died of a heart attack. The mission to the boat was arduous. The zip-line however was a success. The goat now lives with one of the friends. Those goats have since been removed from the island by helicopter on order of the government as they were over grazing it and damaging the native wildlife.

TCM doesn’t drink. Not to say he won’t. But prefers not to. It’s refreshing to meet another person happy to abstain. It’s cheaper to buy alcohol here than coffee. It’s literally half the price. We’ve shared a lot of club sodas after work, talked and laughed hard into the wee hours. I’ve loved hanging out with him and I will actually miss his company when I fly to British Virgin Islands (BVI) tomorrow.

My new chapter awaits. A forty foot boat with 12 hormonal, screaming American teenagers arriving at three week intervals for the next three months. God help me. It’ll be a challenge that’s for sure. Let’s hope it’s rewarding too.