“Do you want to touch it, Aidan?” I ask, hoping fervently the answer will be no.
The little one looks at the big yellow snake coiling around the handler’s body, not afraid, but not quite sure either. I don’t want Aidan to think snakes are pets to play with, I want him to respect them for the wild and dangerous creatures they are. Still, it’s not every day one has the opportunity to interact safely with a python. In the end, against my better judgement, both of us touch it, quickly, hesitantly. It’s cold and dry and scaly, not clammy and gross as my fears assured me it would be. And that’s more than enough for both of us for a lifetime.
While holidaying at the seaside in Scottburgh in KZN, Gareth and I took Aidan to Crocworld Conservation Centre. Apart from the crocodiles, they also have eleven of the twelve “deadly dozen” venomous snakes of South Africa, various rescued birds, reptiles, monkeys and a hundred species of indigenous plants. It’s a wonderful place to spend a morning, walking in the shade of tall trees, listening to birds chirping, quacking and calling, the salty smell of the ocean on the breeze.
We arrived fifteen minutes before the snake handling session, so while we waited, we watched the workers cleaning the crocodile enclosures. It’s winter, which apparently makes crocodiles lazy, but we still couldn’t believe how comfortable the workers were in the vicinity of these immense predators.
Creepy yellow snake aside, the snake handling session was incredibly interesting, and so was the crocodile feeding session not long afterwards. The guide was well-informed, well-spoken, and very funny, the best possible combination to ensure an entertained and engaged audience. We learned all about crocodile conservation, before we ooh-ed and aah-ed appreciatively when one of the crocodiles grabbed a whole dead chicken in its jaws and slowly, methodically, crushed it to pieces and swallowed it. I do not want to be anywhere near those powerful chompers!
After we had explored the park fully, we decided it was time for a bite to eat ourselves. The onsite restaurant has an amazing ocean view and even more scrumptious food (you can even taste crocodile, if you’re so inclined). I had the best self-saucing chocolate pudding of my life here!
Tummies satisfied, we took Aidan one last time for a ride on his favourite crocodile. The little tyke just couldn’t get enough of the ride! Of course, we also had to commemorate our visit with a tour of the gift shop.
We had a fantastic day out at Crocworld and would recommend a visit to anyone in the area. Not only do you see and learn so much about local wildlife, but the money you spend towards entrance fees and souvenirs contribute directly to the conservation of crocodiles and other animals in need. Now what better way to spend a day?
Have you visited Crocworld? Would you let your children touch a python? Do you enjoy exploring conservation centres such as this one? Which ones can you recommend?