STORIES of sharks prowling around popular swimming spots in hot countries aren’t uncommon, albeit still very frightening.
Hearing about open ocean crocodiles terrorising beachgoers is more of a rarity but it does happen as vacationers in Phuket have just discovered.
A lone crocodile has been spotted on several occasions lurking in the shallow waters of the southern Thai island, causing a swimming ban and striking fear in those who were aiming to relax.
The prehistoric reptile with a bite as big as its reputation was first spotted at Rawai Beach down the south end of the island two weeks ago.
It was last seen on Nai Harn Beach on Friday around the same area, but as of yet has not been caught and still poses a risk to swimmers.
It was initially thought the croc had escaped from one of the island’s five crocodile farms. But after a headcount, it was confirmed all crocodiles were in their right places.
So, where did this rogue reptile come from?
Nobody actually knows and he’s proving very hard to catch.
“We will have a better idea where the crocodile is from when we catch it,” Phuket Governor Norraphat Plodthong told Sky News.
Swimmers have been banned from all beaches in Phuket until authorities catch a crocodile that has been making appearances along the coast https://t.co/IWIOTQulCI
— Sky News (@SkyNews) July 25, 2018
It is thought the monsoon season in Thailand, which lasts from June to October, has made it even more difficult for local fisherman to track down and catch the beast.
Marine biologist Thon Thamrongnawasawat told Sky News the crocodile could be a hybrid saltwater version of the type usually found on registered farms.
He added that the sea is not usually a place crocodiles would choose to live, yet they are incredibly adaptable as their survival through evolution has proved.
Crocodiles have roamed the planet since the time of dinosaurs and are closely related to alligators and caimans. However, they differ from their cousins for a few reasons, including their salt glands which can expel salt, allowing them to survive in the ocean.
Up until the 1800s, saltwater crocodiles were a common sight in seas around China, Bangladesh, and Australia.
The majority of them were hunted and killed, but they’re not extinct and the occasional reptile would cause havoc in normally tranquil vacation destinations.
Last year, a British woman was bitten on the leg by an eight-foot saltwater crocodile on the banks of a river in Queensland, Australia.
It is thought crocodiles catch rides on ocean currents and can compensate for the lack of fresh water to drink while they’re at sea by eating blubbery animals.
Crocodiles also have a brilliant sense of navigation and swim back to a location even if they’ve been transported by road to a new place.
A study in 2007 found that three adult male crocodiles were able to swim back to the west coast of Australia’s Cape York Peninsula after being flown by helicopter to the east side.
This spells bad news for Phuket unless the pesky croc is caught and taken to an escape-free location.
Crocodiles also have a taste for turtle eggs. So unless the croc on the loose is caught by October which is turtle nesting season, conservationists are going to have tricky time protecting the next generation of hatchlings.
— Richard Barrow in Thailand 🇹🇭 🇬🇧 (@RichardBarrow) July 20, 2018
However, crocodiles will not intentionally set out to hunt humans.
They are opportunistic predators and can’t easily catch their pray. When there is plentiful food, such as in turtle nesting season or blissfully unaware humans, crocodiles treat it as feast or famine situation.
If you don’t want the last thing you see to be the jaws of a crocodile, these are the tips to remember when you’re traveling to crocodile inhabited areas.
Pay attention to crocodile warning signs
They’re not there for the heck of it. Crocodile warning signs, whether on land or at sea, are there to protect you from becoming a croc’s dinner.
Remember crocodiles are the masters of patience and will lurk in the shallows waiting for their prey. Even if you can’t see a croc, assume it’s there.
Stay away from the river banks
Even if you’re not swimming in croc-infested waters, they can still snatch you from the river beds.
Crocodiles can climb trees
It’s true! These beasts can clamber up trees pretty quickly and if they’re desperate for a snack, they’ll follow you up there. So don’t go looking for safety in treetops.
Clean up your campsite
Leaving scraps of food will attract all sort of pesky animals including ferocious crocodiles.
Sit in the center of a boat
If you’ve booked onto a boat ride in croc-infested waters, be sure sit in the center of the vessel especially if the railings are low.
Crocodiles have been known to leap out of the water using their tails as a spring and attack innocent people.
If all else fails to remember the wise words from Peter Pan, “Never smile at a crocodile, no you can’t get friendly with a crocodile, don’t be taken in by his welcome grin.”
This article originally appeared on our sister site Travel Wire Asia.