I have recently learned to dive, getting my PADI openwater scuba diving certificate in Utila, Honduras last year. When I went to Tulum in Mexico, I was keen to practise my new-found skills, so contacted Ko’ox Diving to see if I could go cenote diving with them in Tulum. One of the owners, Jesus, offered me a cenote diving tour with them – with one catch: that I would also join them for a night dive. With crocodiles. Would you go diving with crocodiles, at night? I did! Here’s how I got on night diving with crocodiles!
Crocodile Diving in Tulum with Ko’ox Diving
While researching dive schools in Tulum, I was recommended Ko’ox Diving by a fellow guest at my hostel in Tulum. I contacted them, and had a great time cenote diving with them during the day. I admit I wasn’t really keen on the night diving with crocodiles, but I thought ‘what the hell’ and agreed. The chance to go night diving with crocodiles is a unique tour that only Ko’ox Diving offer here in Mexico, so was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I just couldn’t resist! The salt water crocodiles here can grow up to 2 metres long, which sounds like a lot when you’re in the water with them, but actually that’s relatively small for crocodiles, and they pose no threat to you while you’re in the water. Instead, you have the unique opportunity to see them in their natural habitat, without feeding or baiting them, just to observe the magnificent creatures and their nocturnal activities.
The Night Dive to find Crocodiles
Preparing for diving with crocodiles
I met my guide Paco at the dive shop that evening. We’d spent the morning diving in cenotes, so he already had the right kit with him in the truck, and freshly filled oxygen tanks. We drove south of Tulum towards the Sian Ka’an Biosphere reserve. It was already dark by this time, and I could feel my nerves building. I had never been on a night dive before, and I certainly hadn’t gotten up close and personal with a crocodile before!
Paco explained that we would get into the lake and try to spot a crocodile on the surface. He is a specialist crocodile guide, so knows where they usually feed around the lake. We would use a torch to catch the light in their eyes, then dive to see them from below. The crocs would just be hanging out on the surface, feeding on frogs and other small animals, and he assured me they weren’t a threat to us. Hmm. I still wasn’t convinced, but it was too late to back out now!
We finally stopped close to the entrance of a large cenote, and changed into our scuba gear. I kept a pair of lycra leggings on underneath my wetsuit to add another layer – Paco warned me it could get cold out there. In addition to the usual kit we each had a strong torch that we would use to see around us, and to signal to each other. As we lowered ourselves gently into the water, I felt my heart was racing, and I’m sure my palms would have been sweating had they not been in the cold water! I hadn’t mentioned that I am also afraid of the dark, and have an overactive imagination that often causes me to picture mad axe murderers and psychopathic clowns lurking in every shadow. I had to work hard to push these images out of my mind even though they were unlikely to be swimming alongside us! The real danger here was the crocodiles.
Diving at night
We didn’t descend into the black water straight away, at first we paddled on the surface to see if Paco could spot any crocodiles around us. I couldn’t see a damn thing, and panicked at every flicker on the surface. Finally, I began to calm down as we were bobbing around in the middle of the dark lake. The moon was bright tonight and offered some sense of comfort to me.
For a while we didn’t see anything; a flash here and there but nothing to aim for. Then Paco spotted a set of green eyes reflecting his torch light. We descended into the depths for the first time, and I realised just how dark it was down there! I made sure to keep up with Paco, his flashlight shining ahead of me. We swam in the direction of the gleaming eyes, and now I was actually excited instead of afraid! Would I catch a glimpse of a crocodile?
We surfaced close by; Paco had realised this was a baby crocodile, a small one which we could see more easily from the surface. I still struggled to pick out the shape of the crocodile until we were right next to it. Then its eyes glared at me, its snout poking up out of the water. I replaced my mask and stuck my head under the water to get a look at its body, a perfect mini-crocodile just a few feet away. Deciding that we were not prey, the crocodile scrambled away under a nearby jetty.
I grinned at Paco. That was pretty cool, I had to admit! Being in the water, in the dark, next to a crocodile! But Paco was on a mission – to find a larger croc.
Searching for Crocodiles
We descended into the depths of the lake again, following the mangroves around the edge and looking above us to see if we could find our crocodile. We saw some other fish, and the creepy mangrove roots stretched out to us like long fingers. Then, Paco waved his flashlight at me to signal he had seen something above us. I followed the beam of light to the surface, and saw her. A larger, female crocodile lurking in the mangroves.
We found a spot to hold onto, so we could get a closer look. Her belly was a pale green colour, glowing eerily in the torchlight. She wasn’t bothered by us, I wasn’t sure if she had noticed our presence, and didn’t want to draw attention to our tasty bodies! We watched her for a couple of minutes, mesmerised by this creature who was so perfectly designed, there was no need for it to evolve in hundreds of years. A terrifying, killing machine was floating a few feet above us, and although Paco had assured me that we were safe, it was still a scary, exhilarating, incredible experience.
Suddenly, with a flick of her tail, she was gone. It occurred to me that with no clue to where she had gone, she could suddenly pop up beside us and take a bite, but that was my overactive imagination kicking in again. She would have been swimming around close to the surface, hunting prey much smaller than we were.
We continued our search, and spotted another smaller crocodile, and saw our larger female again. Finally satisfied we had seen our fill of crocodiles, we returned to dry land, and changed out of our wet gear. While we were driving back to town, Paco said that often there were more large females but today perhaps a big male had been prowling around and spooked them. I was glad we didn’t bump into him in the lake! I couldn’t help but smile to myself, having survived the adrenaline rush of the darkness, the closeness to a potentially lethal animal, and the awe of diving with crocodiles. What a night!
What I loved about the Crocodile Night Dive in Tulum
It was definitely a first for me, and probably the only time I will ever get to do this. Night diving in itself was fascinating, as the experience underwater was very different, and tested my nerves to the limit. Then add the extra adrenaline of spotting a crocodile a few feet away!
Seeing crocodiles in their natural habitat like that was really special. A lot of crocodile cage diving experiences feed the crocs and cause them to change their natural behaviour, which I don’t like. This tour was simply observation, and we did our best to move slowly and quietly in the water to not disturb the animals.
Anything I didn’t like?
The mosquitos! There were mosquitos floating around the surface of the lake, so anytime we were above water, I could feel them feasting on any available skin – my forehead, lip, ears, and even my scalp were all itchy and swollen from bites the next day! Obviously, this is a small price to pay though, just be aware that the little blighters will be out in force.
Would you go night diving with crocodiles? I’d love to hear what you think of this incredible experience! Share your comments below.
If you would like to know more about the night diving with crocodiles with Ko’ox Diving, you can visit their website here.
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The crocodile night dive was complimentary in exchange for this review, but, as always, all opinions are my own, and the fact I loved it clearly influenced my review!
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