On Monday, as I was on a road trip with other missionaries to come to some training, they were kind enough to stop in Sabou, a village along the way, so I could see the famous sacred crocodiles that I had heard about for years but never had the opportunity of meeting before. Here’s how our first meeting went . . .
Shortly after leaving the main road, we arrived, parked, and got out. We were told to go to the little desk marked “Reception,” where we paid the fee of $3 each. A guy then walked over, said that he’d be our guide, and led us up and over a mound that surrounded a little lake. He walked up to a tree, probably 30 feet from the edge of the lake, pulled on a rope in the tree, and, who knew!, there was a dead chicken (but still with its feathers) tied to the other end of the rope.
Our guide, swinging the chicken on the rope and whistling and singing as you could easily picture Tom Sawyer doing as he walked along the edge of the Mississippi River with a fishing pole or stick, walked right up to the crocodile-infested lake. Ok, so I don’t know how many crocs there were in that muddly little lake, but I DID see some eyes poking out and looking at us. And it seemed like a few of them heard his merry little tune and came to greet him, likely knowing what was on the end of that rope.
At first two crocs came out – a small one (they said about 20 years old) and a medium one (about 45 years old). He swung the chicken around their heads a little and they gave a few half-hearted snaps, but didn’t end up with any of the chicken off the rope and into their bellies.
That is the point at which our guide called me over to take the above picture. Yes, that is the croc-infested lake right behind me. And yes, that is the croc that in a few minutes will eat half of that chicken. But when he called me over there and it was a great photo-op, what else could I do? He said that I could also stand or sit on the croc’s back (I don’t know exactly what he said), but I declined that offer. For one, he had just come out of the muddy lake and my hand was filthy. I didn’t want my clothes to be that muddy for the rest of the road trip, too!
After the photo-op, he meandered down the shore a bit, still whistling and singing, and now the great big croc decided to come and say hi. He got closer and rested at the very edge of the lake. Mr. Guide joined him with his chicken-on-a-rope, and swung it around his huge mouth. The great big croc made a few VERY half-hearted (so would that be quarter-hearted?) attempts to eat it, then gave up even bothering. Even when the guide let the chicken lay on the top of his mouth or right next to him, he didn’t even bother opening up to have a taste. What a lazy croc, if I do say so myself!
When the great big croc showed that he clearly wasn’t interested (but I must say that it was kind of him to say hi to us even though he didn’t want the chicken), the guide returned to the medium-sized croc, who at this time did eat that half of the chicken that I had mentioned earlier.
After that, the guide asked us if we had seen them long enough, we said yes, and we climbed back up and over the mound, away from the lake this time. But that wasn’t until after he had reswung the half of the chicken that was left back into the tree. He said that he’d give it to the little guy later, when the medium-sized guy wouldn’t beat him up over it, but who knows. Maybe the next tourists to come will have their guy pull a half of a chicken out of the tree by a rope. Who knows?
Well, there you have it. There’s what my first visit with the famous sacred crocs of Sabou looks like. They were very hospitable and weren’t even interested in eating us. How kind of them.