Make sure you tick off this bucket-list activity when you visit Victoria Falls and book a cruise onboard the intimate and luxurious Ra-ikane. Our low-hulled boats only seat a maximum of 16 passengers, which means everyone has a great seat from which to watch the incredible African wildlife, such as hippo and elephant. On each and every cruise, we can (almost) guarantee that you will see a crocodile – the fearsome, prehistoric beasts that lurk beneath the green waters of the Zambezi river.
Crocodilians include the largest, fiercest reptiles alive today. The 23 species are divided into three families – alligators and caimans which live in the United States and South America, true crocodiles, which live in Africa and Australia, and the gharial which lives in South-East Asia. Although crocodiles can walk on land, their bodies are mainly designed for life in rivers, lakes and swaps, where they are the top predators. Most can charge out of the water and some even leap into the air to attack animals on the shore.
The Nile crocodile is the type that you will spot whilst enjoy a cruise in the Ra-Ikane. They have horny plates on their skin which are reinforced by bone, so almost impenetrable. Their short legs can move quickly cover short distances, and their power tails can be used in defence or attach. They have a flap of skin that covers their windpipe when its mouth is open the water. Their teeth fall out regularly and replaced…they might go through 8000 in their long lifetime, which can be up to a 100 years!
Like most crocodiles, Nile crocodiles are extremely attentive parents.Following an elaborate courtship and mating, which takes place in the water, the female selects a suitable sunny sand bank above floodwater level. With her back legs, she digs a hole about 40cm deep, usually at night, and lays her 16 to 80 white, hard-shelled eggs. She then covers them up with vegetation, and guards them closely until they are ready to hatch. When she hears chirping noises coming from the underground nest, the mother digs down to uncover the eggs. She may help crack the shell before gently carrying the babies down to the water’s edge.
The young stay in a safe area protected by the mother for six to eight weeks. During this stage, they are easy prey, especially to leguaans and marabou storks. The sex of the young crocodiles is determined by temperature during incubation. Females are produced at lower temperatures, and males and higher temperatures.
Most local people of Africa fear crocodiles, not only because they are dangerous, but because they believe that crocodiles have evil magical powers. The Shona tribe from Zimbabwe believe that the skin, bones, and the skull of the crocodile must be returned to the water after it has been killed to make certain that the rains will fall.
Baby crocodiles eat insects, fish and tadpoles. Young adults eat fish, birds and small mammals. Adults crocodiles can grow to weight 750kgs and as long as 4 – 6metres. This means they are the top predator, the very top of the river food chain. Fully grown adults eat fish, and also ambush game when they drink. Even zebra and buffalo can be taken by large individuals. Unfortunately, attacks on people are common, and extra caution should be taken on the Zambezi River – you must never try and swim in the waters, or put your hands in the water whilst on a boat.
Crocodiles swallow stones to help grind up their food, making it easier to digest. The stones also serve as a ballast. We do help these facts will make spotting a ” living fossil” on the Zambezi River that much more interesting – you will literally watch a reptile that hasn’t changed in the last 65 million years!