"" Writer's Wanderings: The Crocodile Hunters

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Crocodile Hunters

The Florida Bay was calmer than we'd seen in a long time. The winds this year have been mostly out of the North and Northwest which makes it a bit choppy and chilly with the cooler temps. But this day was almost perfect--sunny, calm seas and we were feeling ambitious. Bob hoisted our inflatable kayak on his shoulder and we maneuvered the stairs from our second floor condo and made it down to the water.

With a plop the kayak went into the water and we gently and carefully fit our bottoms into the seats. Congratulating ourselves on yet another boarding without upsetting the kayak and landing in the water we set out. There was still a slight breeze out of the south but we headed north anyway even though the return trip would mean a little extra energy on the paddles. We liked the route which would take us past several patches of mangroves that usually held iguanas especially on a sunny day and then into a marina where there were almost always manatees to be seen and played with.

We were not disappointed. A huge colorful iguana was perched in a mangrove sunning himself and wasn't bothered by us coming near for a picture. I'm guessing he didn't want to give up his spot in the sun. He'd been waiting a few days for a chance to warm his leathery hide.

Inside the marina we spotted a single manatee and then three together. The single looked like a young one by his size and seemed to be hanging at the surface perhaps like the iguana, enjoying the sun. I was amazed at how long he held his breath when submerged. We waited long periods for him to surface. The other three were in an a couple of empty slips in the marina and we paddled around watching them. A friend arrived with his daughter and son-in-law and we gave our space to them since this was the first time his daughter had seen the manatees close up.

Outside the marina, Bob said, "Let's head right and into the canal." I knew what he wanted. The great crocodile hunter wanted to see if he could spot the crocodile that was gaining quite a reputation. A couple of years ago we had seen a large one back there that at first we thought was a statue. Turns out it wasn't. This year's croc though is much smaller in size.

Sure enough we found him sunning himself on the shore and we eased the kayak closer for some good shots. He seemed to be sleeping but I'm sure there was a little slit in those eyelids keeping on eye on us. And yes, the thought that we were in an inflatable boat and the crocodile has teeth did cross my mind--several times.

We got our pictures without disturbing him and paddled away all the while keeping an eye out. After all, if there was a little crocodile there had to be a Momma around somewhere and Momma would be a whole lot bigger with a whole lot more teeth.

I exhaled with relief once we were back out in the Bay. We began our paddling toward home cutting across open water a bit to shorten the trip. As we got nearer to shore we were startled by a huge school of what I think was snapper. They were leaping out of the water and running for their life. The pelicans were having a feast with them as it continued for a couple of minutes and they must have traveled a couple hundred feet.

The question came to mind: What's chasing them?

I paddled a little harder.

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