Crocodiles in Indonesia surf

They’re there, and it’s the one you don’t see that gets you.

But the truth is

FIRST, your blog correspondent is in a lousy mood, his right shoulder having exploded while exercising his left re-built shoulder during a rehab swim. Hence it is off once more this week to Oz and Dr. Rotor-Rooter From Hell.

SECOND, the only story I’ve heard of crocs and surfers in Indonesia comes second-hand via a friend who lives and works in Jayapura, Papua, the capital near the border with Papua New Guinea. He’s a surfer who has scoured the coast line around Jayapura. This is not the Papua surf zone that has filtered into the surfing media and surfing consciousness, and now is complete with surf tour companies you can find via Google. No, the coast line around Jayapura, my friend says, is lots of jungle and estuaries and crocs, and the surf — well, if you really must know, go there and find out. Just be careful paddling across estuaries to get to the other side. On a surf expedition out of town with a buddy, my friend says his buddy paddled across a back-of-the-beach estuary while he stood watch. A ripple in the water, a croc on the ambush zeroing on the paddler, but the buddy made it just in time. If I recall the story right, the buddy did not paddle back but went on a long arduous trek carrying his board through the jungle to return from whence he started.

Gary Burns of the Mahalo charter boats worked in Eastern Indonesia for twenty years or so, and found a fickle wave near a remote village with crocs in the adjacent river basins. Sometime later I read a local paper wherein the villagers reported a crocodile eating a man. Theoretically, any surfer at that surf spot could conceivably have a close encounter of the toothy reptilian kind.

But one classic story of crocodiles is a true one that I believe I have reported in this blog some years earlier. A ship carrying over a hundred live salt water crocodiles caught in East Indonesia/Papua and to be smuggled to China and turned into handbags chugged up the entrance of the Rote-Kupang Straits

This was a time when the Navy was cracking down on fuel smuggling, not animal smuggling, but the crocs were still contraband. A corvette spotted the boat and roared down to intercept it. The crew frantically dumped all the crocodiles overboard to get rid of the evidence.

croc strait
(red blob above — this strait is traveled by most surfers heading to Rote, and some frustrated surfers stuck in Kupang due to various reasons have been known to rent a car and explore around that headland just to get out of Poo-pang — in case you must know, the surf there ranges from flat to no good to it sucks, and for a while at least, crocodile infested to boot).

The serendipitously released crocs must have been pretty happy, because this area so happens to be ideal crocodile environment, lots of mangroves and coastal bush close to villages with chickens and goats and other things to eat. For over a year the crocs terrorized the local population, with reports of sightings and close encounters and the loss of valuable animals.

Then just the other week I opened the Jakarta Post and see this photo of a saltie caught off Kupang:

croc kupang

I wouldn’t be surprised if this crocodile was one of the original One Hundred.

Perhaps there are readers of this blog who have their own tale of the crocodile?

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3 Responses to Crocodiles in Indonesia surf

  1. free willy says:

    Can confirm that theres crocs out on Enggano. Unfortunately dried croc penis mixed with tuak is favourite drink around those parts (Indo viagra..apparently) so a few guys earn a living hunting and killing them..I know guy “ronny” who came to my house in bengkulu with a bag of black shrivelled croc knobs, ground a couple up on the mortar and pestle and mixed with tusk..I couldn’t say no..tastes just like chicken penis actually. With that in mind I told myself that crocs weren’t an issue on numerous camping trips out there. But the last trip a local guy out there speared one at night..1.5 m saltwater. This was about 2km from the nearest river/estuary out on pulau dua, which is a km off the southern side of the main Island. On one surf, a few days earlier and not far from where the croc was found I thought I saw an extra fast moving log floating out back of the lineup..hmmm. but the good news is theres still plenty fish on the reefs…so at least they would be well fed (you’d think??? huh???)

  2. Anonymous says:

    Perfect, we already have the men in grey suits keeping the numbers in the water down. Now to start spreading this story around (maybe one of those teenie surfer mags😉) I can see the title/ cover story now…KILLER CROCS IN SURF!!
    Hahaha that would be pure gold.

  3. Brandon says:

    Saltwater crocodiles are native to almost all portions of Indonesia and there are currently populations in many areas. These were not dumped nor have they swum in from another country. They were nearly hunted to extinction but they are slowly rebounding. They never went extinct on Timor, they have always been there. They are also present on Sumba, Flores, Lembata and Wetar, as well as throughout most of the Malukus, Kalimantan, Sumatra and many areas in Sulawesi. In Java they are mostly found in Ujung Kulon but they have recently begun to be frequently spotted elsewhere, suggesting they are slowly attempting to recolonize rivers that they once roamed prior to hunting. In the early 20th century crocodiles were common in areas like Jembrana regency in Bali and the Bengawan Solo river in Java.

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