How often do you get to pet a live crocodile? That’s exactly what you can do during a visit to Kachikally Crocodile Pool in The Gambia, easily reachable in the Bakau neighborhood not far from Banjul.
Big Game vs Petting Crocodiles
African wildlife adventures typically involve visiting parks like Serengeti, where you’ll see vast landscapes, giraffes, lions and cheetahs but everything is at a distance. However, some of the most memorable moments can come from less ordinary animals. In the Gambia we had the chance to pet a live crocodile and Tim even held its tail.
I almost stepped on one, see that story below.
Choosing the Right Croc
On the afternoon we went there were easily a dozen crocodiles within touching distance. There is, however, only one way to choose the right croc to touch.
Listen to your guide.
The guides are extremely knowledgeable, they know the animals well and you should absolutely follow their instructions to a tee. We never felt unsafe while we were at Kachikally Crocodile Pool but crocodiles are too wild and fast to tempt fate with carelessness or dumb stunts.
Safely Petting a Croc
You’ll notice in the video that we’re always near the back of the crocodile. These crocs are habituated to humans but that’s doesn’t mean they’re tame.
It is vital to stay away from the head and mouth of the crocodile.
The guides will consistently remind you of this and for good reason. The instinct of a crocodile to strike out at something moving near their head is strong. It is not something that can be trained out of them.
That’s why it’s the responsibility of guides and visitors to maintain safe practices and always stay a good distance away from their heads.
What it’s Like to Pet a Crocodile
The skin of the crocodiles is as dry and scaly as it looks. The edges are hard, and a little sharp in places and you can feel their very firm muscles under their skin.
Even knowing they’re well fed it’s disconcerting when the croc you’re petting decides to move, but interesting too. The weight and strength of these animals becomes obvious very quickly.
Crocodiles vs Komodo Dragons
Tim and I agree that petting crocs is nowhere near as intimidating as just watching Komodo Dragons, like we did in Indonesia. There were no walls there either, but if the guides hadn’t been there we would have been lunch.
Crocodiles and Komodo Dragons are very different in character and attitude.
Check out our Komodo Dragon adventure here.
Fertility Rites at the Sacred Kachikally Crocodile Pool
If you visit the sacred Kachikally Crocodile Pool, don’t forget to inquire about the culture and traditional Gambian stories associated with the ancient pool.
The legend changes depending on who you ask, but it generally revolves around a villager helping a magical being by risking their lives to save a child from drowning.
Local women who wish to conceive children come from miles around to bathe in the waters of the sacred Crocodile Pool and participate in fertility rites that are still alive and well in The Gambia.
Is it Worth it to Visit the Kachikally Crocodile Pool?
Kachikally Crocodile Pool is one of the cheapest things to do while you’re visiting the West African country of The Gambia and it’s an experience you’ll never forget.
Seriously, petting a crocodile is fun.
The crocs are well fed and well taken care of so while being touristy there’s no exploitation here. If the crocs don’t want to be bothered they can sun themselves somewhere else. This is their pool and their space. We’re just visiting.
If you’re in The Gambia it’s well worth a couple hours of your time.
An Almost Not-So-Funny Crocodile Story
The guides do a good job of looking out for you at the Kachikally Crocodile Pool. I know. I almost stepped on a crocodile and I’m sure I would have come out of that encounter on the worse end.
I was walking around the pool getting video and pics of all the crocs and I thought I was being careful. They’d been very clear about avoiding the crocodile’s heads.
Well, while I was taking pictures of one crocodile I took note of the tree root in my peripheral vision that I didn’t want to trip over off to my left.
We went to the Crocodile Pool in the dry season. As you can see in the video, the crocs don’t look much different from their surroundings.
Exactly – that wasn’t a tree root, it was a crocodile and another step or two would have put me very near its head and within striking distance.
Fortunately our guide saw this and called out to warn me. I promptly stepped away from the croc – and then took its picture.
When you’re photographing wildlife don’t get so involved with your subject that you’re not being careful within you’re surroundings. Keep your eyes open.
Kachikally Crocodile Pool FAQ
Absolutely not. Bakau, where Kachikally is located, is easy to get to from Banjul or anywhere in the Senegambia tourist zone. Grab a cab and go whenever you feel like it. Guides are available any time.
You can easily double up a visit to the Crocodile Pool with a visit to the Monkey Park. Pick one for late morning, then have lunch in the area, and do the other in the afternoon. Just get a new taxi for each leg of the journey. You can watch our video and read about the Monkey Park here.
Any time of year is fine in The Gambia, though deep rainy season in August might get a bit muddy it’s certainly not unreachable. As for time of day, from late morning to late afternoon is great. The hours are 9am-sunset.
The entrance fee is about $2USD and you should figure in a tip for your guide. Though if the guide offers to sell you a necklace with a crocodile tooth or some such thing, you can consider your purchase to be his tip.
Other than that, there’s just the cost of the taxi and that will depend on where you’re coming from. Bargain well.
Yes, it’s safe. The crocs are habituated to humans and while not entirely tame, they’re well-fed and well-behaved. Still, it is of the utmost importance that you follow the rules, listen to your guide and be mindful of the situation. Crocodiles are still wild and instinct always wins.
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