60 Minutes blog

Liz Hayes: Swimming with Crocodiles

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You know when you hear those stories about people doing incredible things, but they’re things you’d never ever, ever, ever dream of doing yourself because you think, that’s crazy.

Well, I’ve been reporting on one of those stories.

But a funny thing happened. I came away thinking … maybe that wasn’t so crackers, after all.

Does that mean … I’m now crackers?

Anyway, there’s this couple in Botswana, Brad Bestelink and his wife, Andy Crawford, who dive with crocodiles.

Yep, they get into the water and cruise the Okavango delta with dirty big, nasty Nile crocs.

Now, don’t go thinking they must be nice little reptiles, because they’re not. The Nile croc is right up there with our snappy Aussie saltie. They’re ferocious and vicious apex predators who can make mincemeat of most of their wildlife mates.

But something seems to happen when they slide into the water.

Maybe it’s like when I have a bath. Slap in some bubbles and top up my glass and I’m a different creature, too.

Actually, Andy and Brad say it’s got more to do with winter, when the Okavango floods and the temperatures tumble.

For just a few weeks, the water becomes crystal-clear and the freezing temperatures slows the croc’s metabolism, along with its appetite.

It is then that Brad and Andy go diving.

They do it because they’re documentary makers. What happens underneath the Okavango for them is as fascinating as what occurs on top. But they also do it because they believe it’s relatively safe.

And Adam Britton agrees.

Adam really loves crocodiles. They’re the dinosaurs that captivated him when he was a boy, and that he now researches with an intense interest as a zoologist and senior research associate at Charles Darwin University.

Adam has joined Brad and Andy and can’t believe he’s swimming beside crocodiles in their natural habitat. It’s the underwater observation he’s always dreamed of but has never been able to do.

With my gob mostly gaping, I spent a week with Brad, Andy and Adam. We explored the Okavango together and spotted some monster crocs.

Their underwater encounters were extraordinary.

Brad was born and bred in Botswana. The Okavango is his back yard.

The croc, for as long as he can remember, always got a bad rap. His mother constantly warned him against going near the water, and his grandfather was granted a hunting licence and according to Brad almost wiped the local crocs out.

But Brad’s views have changed dramatically.

He and Andy say that what they’re witnessing underwater sheds new light on one of the world’s most feared creatures. The Nile crocodile, they say, is timid!

Adam Britton certainly put the theory to the test. What he does, you’ve got to see to believe.

However you look at it, these three are fairly brave souls. They know what they’re doing and they carefully calculate the risks.

Our crew, cameraman, Andy Taylor, and soundman, Chick Davey, are not short of ticker either. Both dived and both spent time swimming side-by-side with crocs. But that first time … going over the side …was hair-raising.

Just ask Andy!

Watch Andy and Chick's close encounter here

User comments
i belive the crocodiles should be left alone. The swimmers are in the crocodiles territory and are asking for trouble swimming with them. Leave the crocodiles alone
Great to see someone carrying on the legacy of our great Steve Irwin and showing us that these creatures are not man hunters. They are misunderstood, they are an apex predator with only themselves and people to fear. Keep up the great work and stay safe.
I just watched the sixty minutes documentary about swimming with these monsters. I come from a village in Solomon islands were these monsters have grown in numbers and so far have taken lives of 5 children, the latest was last year and was a very close relative. We now kill them on any sightings and some even hunt them to kill them so that to help decrease the number as they are now very dangerous There is a characteristic of this monster that I want to share which I came to know through people who hunt them. When the two couples in Botswana were talking about the croc being very timid under water, this character which I want to share might relate to this. The crocodile is just like humans, they cannot breathe underwater. However, they can hold their breath for a very long time. Because of this, hunters prefer fighting the croc underwater. The easiest way is to open the mouth of the croc and it will drown. On land, man is not a threat at all.
My partner and I were managing a lodge in Zanzibar in 2011 when Chris and Andy and their family came to stay. They are every bit the real deal, no bullsh*t people who were understated and grounded. I wish them every success
Thank you Liz for understanding what we do, the way we do it, and most importantly, why we do it. Was a great time with great people and great crocs. Cheers.

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