A Big Fish Expeditions Trip Report
A fantastic Crocodile Trip!
Continuous crocodile encounters for three solid days, plus some great dives with playful nurse sharks on the pristine reefs of Chinchorro Atoll.
Tarpon on Steroids
As always, the trip started with a couple of dives off the tiny village of Xcalak in the deep south of the Mexican Caribbean. Xcalak has some very nice reefs including a spot called La Posa that hosts an enormous school of tarpon, many of which are probably 1.5m long!
The next morning, we loaded up the panga and set off for Chinchorro Atoll. A stiff breeze made the crossing rather wet and bumpy, so we were all relieved when we arrived at the atoll. Once we were in the lea of the island, we stopped at a gorgeous reef so that the crew could hunt for invasive lionfish to feed to the crocs. Meanwhile, those of us with cameras got busy shooting Chinchorro’s spectacular sponges and other invertebrate life that clings to every available surface.
After the dive, we headed for the Chateau Chinchorro as I laughingly call it; a small fisherman’s shack that we stay at while we are snorkeling with the crocs. As we pulled up in the boat, a couple of crocodiles immediately swam out of the mangrove in our direction. I guess they were hungry!
After unloading the boat, the crew rustled up some lunch and then the guests slid into the water – two at a time – for their first encounter. Some guests seemed a bit apprehensive at first but they soon got used to being in the close proximity of big crocodiles.
The action was so good that by the end of the day, everyone with a camera had a slough of respectable croc images, so from that point on, the pressure was off.
The next morning, we went back to the reef to hunt for more lionfish. Lionfish belong in the Pacific where they have many natural predators. In the Caribbean, very few animals have figured out how to eat them, so their numbers have increased, causing havoc on local fish species. Fortunately, crocodiles find them delicious, so we are happy to supply them with as many as they want 🙂
Toward the middle of the day Gambit showed up. Gambit is a 3m+ crocodile with a very relaxed disposion. She is happy to sit patiently on the sea grass snapping at lionfish, while divers compose shot after shot of her from every direction.
On all of our croc trips, I make an effort to take images of every guest next to big croc. It is a relatively easy shot to take and a nice souvenir of the encounters. The angle and barrel distortion of my wide angle lens makes the crocs look even larger than life, especially when gambit is the supermodel in the foreground.
Sharks and Sponges
At the start of our final day at Chinchorro Atoll we dove at Punta Isabela. A gorgeous reef where nurse sharks invariably follow divers around hoping to steal a lionfish or two before the divemaster stuffs them into his catch tube. This is a great spot get images of nurse sharks swimming between colourful sponges.
After the dive we headed to the ranger station on Cayo Centro to see the enormous iguanas and enjoy views of the central lagoon.
Afterwards we hurried back to the Chateau Chinchorro to enjoy a few more sessions with the crocs before packing up and heading back to the mainland.
As we made our way back to the mainland, I did a quick tally of the crocs we had encountered. We saw at least six different crocs of various sizes, the largest being Gambit and the smallest being an unnamed newcomer that was maybe 150cm long. There may well have been a few more but it can be difficult to identify one from another until you know each animal well. All in all it was great trip, and one I am excited to be leading again next summer. Join the adventure on our next Crocodiles of Chinchorro Atoll Diving and Snorkeling Expedition