It started out as an inkling to try something daring. Or not!
If I were to make a bucket list of the things I wanted to try out in my lifetime, I can promise you that cage diving with crocodiles wouldn’t appear on that list. EVER! It never crossed my mind that it would eventually become the one thing I would be crossing out of my hypothetical bucket list. It is now the other experience I used to compensate another one that should have been crossed off my list; bungee jumping.
It all happened on a lovely Tuesday afternoon after being overwhelmed with fright. The fear that the rope of hope used to secure my dear life would decide to snap and I will solemnly fall right into the gorge was exhilarating to say the least. I couldn’t bring myself to jump from the 111 meters bungee platform because thoughts of passing out and never waking up ran through my mind.
“Please untie me!” I told the main attendant.
“You can do it” he kept assuring me.
“No I can’t.”
The cheers from the people around gave me pieces of courage as I decided to give it a try. I then made the worse mistake by asking the attendant:
“Can I close my eyes?”
“No you can’t.”
“Then you need to UNTIE me now!”
Feeling a bit relieved and realising that my fear of heights was still dominant, I went ahead and consented to diving with crocodiles when Sophie our tour guide asked if I was interested. I thought to myself “I should be able to handle that.”
“It’s only about 25 minutes and you’ll be in a cage with an instructor”
Alas, we proceed!
As we proceeded to the Cage dive place, I became a bit enthusiastic about the dive. Now for those who know me well this isn’t surprising. I LOVE ADVENTURE!!! I always like to try something new and daring. Not that I hate my life or I don’t think of the consequences of my actions but to be honest, the fact that no one will ever leave this earth alive is one of my key driving force. I’m one of those people who try as much as possible not to take life seriously because it is all VANITY! Yes…Bloody empty shit I tell you. Take it or leave it. Your choice!
To the crocodiles!!! HAHAHA
When we arrived at the Crocodile cage dive, we were handed our diving suits to go change into. Four of us had indicated our interest in doing the dive so we were split into two group of twos until one person got really scared after we changed into our suits and changed her mind…Best decision ever!
“What do you have to say before you die!”
That was one of my group members teasing. He thought we were completely insane to have consented to the cage dive.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Another member asked, doubting if we thought our actions through.
“Leave them! they want to die!”
“Please sign the indemnity forms.” the instructor said handing us papers as he took us through the rules of the dive. The one rule that truly stuck was the one about not touching the bars outer bars of the cage. “Make sure you hold on to the inner bars and not the outer one so that you don’t end up as dinner to the crocodiles.” Yikes!!! I must be out of my mind to want to continue after hearing that but still, I proceed.
I was paired up with Emy who was really excited about the cage dive. Adorned in our oversized diving suits, we were happy and cheering even as the rest of the crew kept teasing, hoping to make a good laugh out of us but we didn’t care. Our minds were made up. Now a certain group member who had been bubbly and teasing people (I’ll call him “The jovial man”) on this trip so far was about to be the laughing stock for the rest of our time in Zimbabwe. And of course like most things in life, he didn’t see it coming. He was the forth person who signed up for the dive and was paired up with the person who later changed her mind so he was asked to join Emy and I in the cage just to hasten the process…another bad decision.
The instructor gave us signals to indicate if things were okay and otherwise. He handed us masks and snorkels and into the cage we went. I was in between the jovial man and Emy, standing directly under the escape patch of the cage, holding on tight to the bar that ran from end to end in the middle of the cage. The instructor was on the other side of the bar, making sure we were doing everything we were told right. I had issues breathing with the snorkel for a few minutes. I fell short of breath as I was trying to adjust into breathing with my mouth.
“I can’t breathe!” The jovial man said, also trying to adjust the snorkel.
“Just signal to me if you have any problem.” said the instructor.
I signaled. I was good to go!
“So we are going into the water now. In case of any emergency, swim up to the escape cage.”
“Wait! I can’t breathe!!”
Too late. We were in the water by now with just a portion of the cage suspended above with our heads still out of the water. The jovial man signaled that he wasn’t okay so the instructor asked them to halt the cage suspension for a while.
“Just try to catch your breath.” the instructor told him as he struggled to take in air, panting heavily.
After he relaxed for a few seconds, we were suspended completely into the water. Once we were in the water, the crocodiles approached us and surrounded the cage, swimming around enthusiastically. The cage for them meant there will be food. There was food but it wasn’t us unfortunately for them. It was pieces of fish or meat (not sure what exactly it was) attached to a string, dropped by someone outside from the suspension board. I had a glimpse of one crocodile that came really close to my side of the cage and seeing the scales on its body up close was fascinating.
As I was busy savoring the moment, tragedy struck. Well not tragedy. The jovial man had a panic attack! He got really scared seeing the crocodiles around and started touching the bars that were off limit. He struggled in the water moving all around trying to find a way out. The next thing I remember was two heavy feet stomping on my head, really pushing me down as hard as he could. I was blocking the escape route and his only option was to feed me to the crocodiles while he tries to escape. Once I realised he was trying to get out, I remained calm as he continued to use my head as an escape platform. The instructor noticed and asked for the cage to be removed from the water.
Once I got out of the water, I saw people teared up, laughing as hard as they could. I was a bit perplexed as to why they were laughing until they explained to Emy and I how he was trying to escape once he saw the crocodiles.
“He was with two women in the water and he panicked. What a shame!” someone said laughing really hard at him.
The jovial man tried to explained himself by saying his suit was tight and he was unable to breathe but nobody was interested. They all just continued laughing, each giving account of what they had witnessed. He then was nicknamed “The crocodile man” and was referred to as that thereafter.
I couldn’t laugh because I was more upset about being used as a safety option than the fact that he was trying to escape. And because of him, The whole cage dive process was shortened to about 5 minutes which was more annoying. I was angry that I was unable to touch the crocodiles and feed them too. I later felt sorry for him as the joke never ended. He was constantly teased about the incident and withdrew from everybody. Once we got back to Harare, he blended with other people at the conference avoiding our group. This incident succeeded in shattering his ego into pieces, one I doubt he’ll ever forget.
*My trip to Zimbabwe was courtesy of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority. All opinions however remain my own