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When in Puerto Vallarta I like to start the day with a paddle, and the closest place to do so is in the development we live in, Marina Vallarta, which runs along the shoreline of Banderas Bay. It is a short drive for me to the beach where I can easily launch and go east in front of Marina Vallarta and the hotels and condos, or west in front of the airport and over to the Ameca River.

Where I launch my board, the road parallels a golf course, which has a lot of water hazards populated with crocodiles, especially the holes close to the beach. But I’ve always been told they don’t like salt water and stay around the golf course.

Well, this morning I launched out on my board, stood up and started paddling east, following the shoreline. In front of me I saw what I thought was a palm frond laying in the ocean. As I got close to it I could see the “frond” had horns along its back and tail, and that it was moving towards the beach. I slowed down and watched it cross my path and then go under water. A big crocodile, big, 3-4 meters long, similar to the one in the photo below.

I sat down (to be more sturdy in case I was attacked!), and watched to see if he was actually going to climb out onto the beach. He didn’t come up again. So I paddled a little farther out and waited. He came up again and was now swimming parallel to the beach, heading towards the condominiums nearby. I watched for awhile and then he went under water again. I then decided to continue my paddle eastwards.

On the way back two boats stopped alongside me to warn me about it. And I could see the police on the beach. But I had to get out and to my car, where he last was. So I waited a bit, didn’t see him, and then paddled in and got out quickly. Exciting way to start the day!

In the past, I sometimes have stopped before going in and gone for a swim to cool off, pushing the board in front of me. And did it in this spot just a few days ago. Certainly wouldn’t want to meet up with that in the water.

Note: I’ve found out a little more about the crocs since this episode.

  1. Seeing crocs here is not uncommon. I’ve since talked with people who have seen them swimming out front of Marina Vallarta from their condo terraces. And heard stories of two people who have come across them while swimming here, but the croc disappeared quickly, swimming away.
  2. And read this: Though crocodiles have no natural predators, other than humans, it’s wise to keep some kind of barrier between them and us. They are not known to be aggressive and attacks on people are quite rare but we leave it to others to test the theory. Oddly enough, reports over the decades of aggression towards humans have usually dealt with trespassers, turtle egg poachers and, quite often, other illegal activities.
  3. Crocodiles normally hunt at night and prefer limited moonlight but disruption of their normal habits, due to domestic interference, is not a great surprise. Given that, we are aware of instances in which off-leash dogs have been snapped up by crocodiles. When a dog approaches a crocodile, barking and snarling, the reptile is going to be prone to protect himself. Apparently dogs are a real delicacy for crocs, so it’s always a good idea to keep Fido leashed and in line.
  4. The American Crocodile (the name of the one most commonly found in Marina Vallarta and the area), is the only one of his species that thrives in both fresh and salt water, which seems to be the result of salt glands under their tongue. This is an unusual attribute.

I’ve come to the conclusion that crocodiles have been swimming in this area for some time, but they avoid contact with humans. They don’t seem them as a food source, and would only attack it seems, if they are cornered, or we enter into their territory. That said, I still don’t feel comfortable swimming behind my board out there, anymore!

A friend sent me this short film he made on the crocodiles in the marina area.

Below are some pictures of the crocodiles on the golf course, about 100 yards from the beach and ocean.