An encounter with an American crocodile in the Gardens of the Queen is a highlight of a dive trip to Cuba
One of the most fascinating animals we observed was the American crocodile. This reptile is one of the few species that live in saltwater. One individual, a 4m-long female croc stragely nicknamed Franco, was a regular visitor at our hotel Tortuga and after dinner the staff would feed her bits of chicken.
In the mangroves, we were able to swim with juvenile crocodiles. They were around 2m long, but already had plenty of sharp teeth. Most of their diet consists of fish, reptiles, birds and small mammals. The water was very shallow – only a metre or so deep – and the crocs were actually quite shy. They’d stand on the seabed with their heads at the surface, their eyes above the waterline like a periscope.
It took some thrashing about in the water to get their attention. Once we did, they would aggressively attack with mouths wide open – they seemed to be interested in their own reflection in our domes. We had to proceed very cautiously around these reptiles, keeping our large cameras between us and them. After losing battery power in one camera, Olga switched to a smaller camera without strobes. One crocodile moved in on her, and she quickly got behind me, using me as a shield. I was able to head the crocodile off with my large camera kit.
Documenting the American crocodile was addictive. Since we were snorkelling, we spent hours in the water with this intriguing animal and it was the most unique experience I’ve had in the water.
Read the full article on Cuba in DIVE's April 2014 issue