Thursday, April 15, 2010

Guyana Tales: Getting Friendly With the Neighborhood Caiman

After an over-night bus ride on a pot-holed dirt road through the Amazon jungle my father and I arrived at Iwokrama Field Station, hot, encrusted with dust and exhausted. The river, though opaque and brown, looked incredibly inviting.

"Is it safe to swim?" we asked our guide.

"Yes it's very safe," he assured us. "Just wait about twenty minutes because I have a few things to do before I can watch you."

"Oh we're good swimmers we don't need to be watched!" we said. We're both pretty intrepid travelers not used to having a guide so, although we appreciated his gesture, being babysat was not a cool idea or necessary.

"No, no, please just wait and I'll be down as soon as I can," he insisted

OK, we thought, no need to rock the boat on arrival.

Twenty minutes later the guide accompanied us down to the river. We swam around in the murky water, stretching our bus-stiffened muscles for about half an hour while our new friend watched vigilantly from the dock. Afterwards, we went back to our rooms, showered and went to dinner.

We were served by an absolutely lovely Amer-Indian woman who asked us about our day.

"I hear you went swimming," she said with a sweet smile. "Did you meet Sankar?"


"Yes Sankar, he's our eight-foot caiman."

My dad nearly choked on his manioc.

"Um, no we didn't," I said nervously as my dad gulped water, his face turning red. "Uh, is he friendly?"

"Well I'm not sure really," our friend said in her sing-song voice. "I like to feed him scraps of meat."

And with that she went back to the kitchen.


  1. Wow, I would have needed a stiff drink after that!!! What a fun story. I went swimming in the Amazon a couple of months ago and had quite a similar experience...

  2. In India, in the state of Orissa, in a place called BhitarKanika (more exactly Dangmal); there's a Crocodile hatching and sanctuary. We stayed in the forest guest house. Around 1400+ crocs around the river Pathsala. Yes, I too was tempted to swim - but no chance. Heard few villagers died even hundreds of miles away as crocs move upstream, and villagers now don't use river for bathing/or washing clothes.

    Inside the forest guest house, we assumed it was safe. However there are few water bodies inside. And one morning, saw a big 18-ft crocodile near one such waterbody, across the path of our guest house; and where 6-8 years kids freely played the evening before. No warning (India...) was given to us; and then heard in monsoon - they reside in the guest house.



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