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Report 27-KINABATANGAN NIGHT CRUISE

croc Our guide would shine his light on the riverbanks and we’d approach mostly tiny still animals—sleeping birds that looked like brightly colored glass baubles or lumps on the river bank. Similar lumps—birds or small mammals—lurked in low tree branches. Boas relaxed in careless coils to soak the day’s heat out of the dark rocks. The jungle was thickeningly mysterious.

I craved those elephants but surely wouldn’t see them at night. I became more used to the stillness and solitude of a sleeping animal tucked into a rock or a branch. Now our target presented as a stick in the water. As we moved toward the bank it showed a little movement. Crocodile. She snuggled the bank to make her spotted back invisible and we glided silently towards her.

She spun around on her wide belly—pure aggression in one efficient sweep of lunge and flashing jaw, punctuated with a snap. Our guide backed off with a few quick paddles while our temples burst with new blood. We knew ourselves as smooth tasty morsels way out of our league. My German cruise-mate and I tittered nervously over our adrenaline cocktails. We re-played the scene to new horror once we realized how nervous our guide was. Never smile at a crocodile. I was grateful for the warning and knew it could easily have been more than that.