April and Kevin in Kuna Yala, the northeast coast of Panamá

Monday, October 1, 2007

The Crocodile Hunter

The last time we tried to return to the island, we spent the day in the port unsuccessfully looking for a ride and passed the time chatting with the marine police, store owners, and other regulars who seem to always be there. April also talked to some small tourist boats when they returned from a visit to Coiba. They had a 115hp engine and apparently pass our island in about 20 minutes, as opposed to the two hours it takes us with a 15hp motor. Speed wise, that’s the equivalent of 60mph versus 10mph, and made us kind of jealous (but also happy to know the trip can be made that quickly in an emergency).

We never did find a ride that Sunday, but luckily, my guia, Efrain, happened to come in from the island that morning, and we had talked with him about looking for a ride. We agreed that if we couldn’t find a ride, we’d spend the night with him and his wife in their off-island house, and ride back with them in the morning.

While staying at their house, in addition to talking about the education system here in Panamá with his teacher sister (the entire street is one relative or another), we watched The Crocodile Hunter, dubbed into Spanish, in which they were tagging 17ft crocs and tracking them in northeast Australia. And of course we talked a bit about the fact that there supposedly are American crocodiles (smaller than Australians) in our gulf, although we haven’t seen one swimming or sunning yet (but we’ve seen lots of mangroves, so they could be hiding).

So imagine the irony and our surprise the following morning, just half an hour out of the port, when we spotted the white belly of a five or six foot croc floating in the river. While we still haven’t seen a live one, we can no longer tell ourselves that Panamá’s crocodile population is only in other parts of the country.

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