Flamingo Crocs

You know the trait of a crocodile, don’t you? It never hunts outside water. It always goes into the water to catch its prey. It never goes in the villages or in the bush looking for food. — E. Mnangagwa

There is something primordial about crocodiles that alligators just don’t have. Crocs are bigger than gators and although both species descended from the same common ancestor, crocodiles more closely resemble this prehistoric antecedent. Alligators live in fresh water, while crocodiles prefer salt. We saw plenty of gators, both this time and last, but this is the first time that we saw crocs.

We saw them in the Everglades at Flamingo Point, which is at the southernmost tip of the mainland of Florida. Across the bay on Key Largo is a national wildlife reserve that is dedicated to protecting crocodiles. Unlike alligators they are endangered. Unfortunately, this reserve is not open to the public. Not so much to protect the crocs, but to protect the tourists from the crocs.

At Flamingo Point marina kayaks are rented. You put in across the canal from where the two pictured crocodiles were photographed. The kayakers approached them to within twenty feet and probably got better photos than me. It was at this marina where we also saw manatee, for the second time. The ranger who had directed us over there found it humorous that the most exotic wildlife liked to hangout in the marina. Neither of the crocodile moved while we observed them. In fact it took me a long time to convince myself that the floating one was not just a log. But I suspect that come sundown, like the alligators that we did observe, they become a lot more active. Word to the wise, be back to the marina before sundown and not just because of the crocs.

One of the things that Flamingo is most notorious for is its mosquitos. The salt marshes that stretch from it to the keys are an ideal breeding ground. University scientists and the US military have chosen Flamingo as the ideal proving ground for mosquito repellents. At the visitors center there is a bar chart that forecasts the current conditions. This meter goes from Enjoyable to Hysterical, with stops at Horrible, Unpleasant and Bearable in between. When we were there this somewhat subjective meter was near the bottom, barely into the Bearable range.

In days gone by, when the skeets were bad, old timers at Flamingo would say, “you can swing a pint cup in the air and get a quart of mosquitoes.” This display also offers you congratulations, “If you’re itching, you have officially become part of the Flamingo food web!” Crocs aren’t the only thing that is coming out at night and wants to eat you. 

See you later, alligator. After a while, crocodile. — Bill Haley

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