Crocodiles in San Blas

We’ve now spent 4 months enjoying San Blas and much to our surprise crocodiles are a bit more prevalent here than we first thought. When we came to San Blas we read that they only stayed close to the mainland, in the rivers there, but have since discovered that they are keen swimmers and have ventured even to the anchorages furthest from the coast.

The top picture is of a croc we saw when we took the dinghy up Rio Diablo by Nargana in San Blas. The croc was a little over 2 meters long, minding its own business, which we gladly let it do. When we got back to Stella Polaris we did a bit of reading on crocs and discovered some things that we weren’t aware of.

Here are 3 facts and myths:

  1. Crocs are lightning fast sprinters. MYTH … sort of
    a. They can only achieve a max speed of around 12-14 km/h for short distances, so most reasonably fit people can outrun them.
    b. They can however accelerate fast and cover short distances by exploding into action. An adult salt water crocodile can cover 12 meters per second for a quarter of a second, meaning they can cover their entire body-length before you have time to react, so keep your distance.
  2. Crocs are fast and agile swimmers. FACT
    a. Crocodiles can swim at speeds up to 10 km/h and even up to 15 km/h has been observed. They use their powerful tail for propulsion and will have no problem catching you in the water.
    b. An interesting point is that they also sometimes sink themselves to the bottom and walk on the bottom, instead of swimming. They can also lay on the bottom and wait for unsuspecting prey …
  3. Crocs can’t stay submerged long. MYTH
    a. Crocodiles normally dive for 4-6 minutes, but have no problem staying underwater 10-15 minutes. They can however extend that to up to 2 hours if they are trying to hide from a threat.

In the San Blas area there hasn’t been any croc attacks (Editors note: see bottom of article for an update) on humans that we’ve heard of (though a Panamanian fisherman was taken in Gatun lake), but the Kuna Indians on hollandaise have lost a few dogs to crocs. It turns out that cruisers with dogs have a larger chance to find crocs in their vicinity, as barking attracts crocs, because to them it means livestock could be nearby … Not to mention that dogs make for a tasty treat (something Koreans seem to agree with).

This new information hasn’t changed our swimming habits, but I must admit that that we keep an extra eye on the logs that float by.

(UPDATE) There has been a croc attack at the Hollandaise Islands in San Blas. Many blogs talk about it and while I couldn’t find any official confirmation, this is a video where a girl talks about her being attacked.