Crocodile Cage Diving, previously Predator Diving is Brian Nielsen’s dream incarnate. Born in the African bush with a passion for anything dangerous he exchanged a fishing rod for spear gun and soon developed an interest in Nile crocodiles bordering on obsession. Later moving to Australia as an off shore saturation diver Brian discovered the Cage of Death at the Darwin crocodile park. Determined to start something similar back in Africa, he sold his Perth home, bought a 4×4 in Harare and arrived in Victoria Falls with a tent, his wife and two sons chasing the rainbow.
Due to National Parks environmental restrictions the cage was never allowed in the Zambezi river, something my brother had hoped for – to share the lives of these prehistoric creatures in their natural habitat. Instead Brian found a vacant pond, a big pond. Big enough for three Nile crocodiles born in captivity: Bongo, Prado and Lucky. The cage is a welding feat, built on an overhead monorail it’s lowered into the water enabling the crocodiles to encircle and climb it with a maximum of 3 divers and a dive instructor inside.
Brian offered me my first job in Vic Falls as manager and diver of Crocodile Cage Diving. Loving diving but loathing crocodiles, I got to know these predators as well as I know my own pets. The Zimbabwean expression ‘flat dogs’ is an apt one. I would have thought nothing of wearing their skin or eating their flesh. That changed as fast as the crocodylus can swim.
When you dive with these creatures you see them like you’ve never seen them before. Not sitting with their mouths open along the banks of the river, immobile and alien. Instead, in their element you watch them play and fight, eat and glide, you look them straight in their twinkling golden eyes. You get to touch their feet as they climb over the cage, to rub their broad soft bellies and watch their obvious enjoyment as the gas from your regulator massages their skin.
As much as many of us would love to see these scaly beauties released back into the wild, their habituation to humans would not allow it. They are the martyrs. The chosen few who represent an entire species. And through our contact with them we glimpse into their ancient world, form tangible bonds and want to protect them. Why would you slaughter one of the oldest predators on earth?
Photo by Sandi