It isn’t too often that you get to have one up on a crocodile and live to recount the experience, let’s face it, they are one of nature’s most efficient hunters.
And it will always be the one that you didn’t see that will get you…
A few years ago, Janet, my partner, and I lived in Papua New Guinea, an independent Nation just to the north of Australia. During our time there we tried to experience much that the country has to offer, and we travelled as much as we could.
Each day I paddled the coastline on my surf ski, a sit-on-top kayak measuring around 6 metres in length. At the time there were no other craft like mine in this area, if not the country, and it always caught the interest of the villagers’. It was sleek and glided effortlessly through the water…
There was much to explore and the local villages I passed were always friendly and welcoming.
The tropical waters of the Papuan Coast are full of marine life, large stingrays, and majestic turtles, some of the most colourful reef fish you will ever see and of course sharks of many varieties.
I’m pleased to be able to say that the most common sharks I encountered where the black tip reef sharks which are mostly harmless if left alone. And I was often told they are well fed… Just on what and how often seemingly was an unanswered question.
Of course, the tropical waters are also home to the more menacing and much larger tiger shark.
From a hill top vantage point near Port Moresby, the capital city, I once observed the largest tiger shark I have ever seen.
It was following a pod of dolphins heading towards Local Island, which is situated about 3-kilometres offshore from the local beach, Ela beach.
We lived within a stone’s throw of this beach and it was a paddle I did regularly and after this encounter I was left wondering how many times I may have been stalked as I crossed to the island.
Papua New Guinea is also home to the saltwater crocodile, or Puk-Puk as it is known in the local language. I was always alert for the possibility of one of these creatures being present in the waterways I paddled. Realistically, I’m not sure what I would have done if I encountered one, and it is unlikely there would ever have been any forewarning before encountering the “death roll”.
The sight of local villagers’ fishing in the water from the shore was always a comforting sign, as they are also alert for the Puk-Puk’s presence. And normally there are telltale signs they may be present.
Recently, a friend and I were discussing paddling in Papua New Guinea and an encounter I did have with one of these creatures.
It was in the mountains about 40 kilometres from Port Moresby at a place not to far from the start of the Kokoda Trail, a place immortalised in Australian Military history.
I had decided to take my kayak into the mountains for a paddle down one of the rivers just for a change to the coastal paddling I was more accustomed to. During a two-hour paddle I was rewarded with magnificent scenery and a couple of friendly villages along the way.
I had Janet drop me off and I was to meet her at the Kokoda Trail Motel, a small pub, after negotiating my way along the river. I was a little nervous at first and any bump underneath the kayak left me wondering if these were to be my final moments before the jaws of one of these pre-historic creatures crushed the kayak, or worse!
There was an element of excitement about it…
As I made my way with the flow of the river I was observing the muddy banks for any telltale signs of a slide. Places where a crocodile may have slipped into the water from its resting point.
Crikey, in an instant my heart skipped a beat…
There was no doubting what I saw heading my way.
Isn’t it funny how sometimes every thing around you can go into slow motion?
Strewth, this was a moment suspended in time.
Was it to be my one and only encounter with a crocodile?
The final scorecard reading, Puk-Puk, one; Baz, nil…
I’m pleased to say it wasn’t…
Upon sighting my arrival on the banks of the river beside the motel, Janet ordered me a Puk-Puk steak for lunch and it was heading my way, suitably seasoned, and on a plate…
And to this day, the sight of Janet always makes my heart skip a beat!
I had many more visits to the mountains where I enjoyed a paddle, a Puk-Puk steak, and a couple of ice-cold beers with Janet…
And if you have never tried Puk-Puk, do yourself a favour, it is delicious; just make sure it is on a plate…