Warning: The true accounts you’re about to read might scare the fishing pants off you. In reality, the odds of facing a frightening wild animal are infinitesimal, but crocodile encounters are not impossible. A bit of caution, a little common sense and some luck keep most of us out of harm’s way. These accounts are not intended to discourage anyone from kayak fishing. Instead, the following stories serve as a healthy reminder that once you paddle away from the land, you’re no longer the top of the food chain.
Close encounters with a wild animal can be life changing experience. Famed naturalist Val Plumwood claims her encounter with a saltwater crocodile allowed her to “see the world from the other side.”
How to (Barely) Survive a Crocodile Encounter
Looking for an aboriginal rock-art site, Plumwood set out in a canoe in a remote river of Kakadu National Park at the top of Australia’s Northern Territory. In a sudden raging storm, as Plumwood tried to paddle back to base, a monstrous crocodile began to attack the canoe. Plumwood knew she would become its prey if she couldn’t escape. Moments later she found herself in the immense jaws, under the river’s muddy surface.
“Few of those who have experienced the crocodile’s death roll have lived to describe it,” she writes in her chapter of the book, The Ultimate Journey. Suddenly the death roll stopped and, head above water, she was able to breathe. But then the croc pulled her down in a second death roll. Yet again she came up alive and realized the beast no longer had her in its jaws. She was able to reach up and pull herself into a paperbark tree. Injured, she couldn’t climb high enough and the croc rose out of the water to clamp its teeth on her thigh and drag her into the water spinning in a third death roll.
This time, Plumwood managed to scramble up the bank and away from the water. She crawled to the edge of the swamp where the park ranger found her before another croc could.
Eschewing Revenge for the Attack
During the long journey to the Darwin Hospital, “my rescuers discussed going upriver the next day to shoot a crocodile. I spoke strongly against this plan,” Plumwood writes. “I was the intruder, and no good purpose could be served by random revenge.”
Plumwood says she was lucky to overcome “a leg infection that threatened amputation or worse.” Plumwood went on to become a prominent philosopher and ecofeminist. Plumwood’s work on the “hyperseparation” of humans and nature was inspired by the crocodile attack. Her patched and repaired canoe is on display in the National Museum of Australia.
Plumwood was attacked by a saltwater crocodile, Crocodylus porosus, a species exceeding 20 feet long, aggressive and known to attack and eat humans. Each year in Australia, several people are attacked by saltwater crocs.
Nile Crocodiles Go One Further
The saltwater croc’s reputation pales in comparison to the world’s most dangerous crocodile. The Nile crocodile inhabits most of Africa and is implicated in dozens of attacks each year. In 2010, a Nile croc pulled famed explorer Hendrik Coetzee from his kayak in a sudden, horrific attack. As his stunned companions watched, Coetzee was pulled beneath the water. He was never seen again.
This article was first published in Kayak Angler Issue 45. Subscribe to Kayak Angler and get the magazine delivered to your front door. Download the Kayak Angler Magazine+ app to seamlessly glide between the digital archives, the latest articles and videos.
Saltwater crocodiles are the largest living reptiles you can encounter. Just sayin’. | Feature photo: Shutterstock.com