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Gambia: Katchikally Sacred Crocodile Pool

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Katchikally Sacred Crocodile Pool | Gambia | Africa

[Visited: October 2013]

After not seeing any crocodiles in the Abuko Reserve, and with a day to spare, I decided to go to the Katchikally crocodile pool which was a mere ten minutes from where I was staying. After my adventure of visiting the slave museum in Jufureh the day before, I did not feel like another day with all kinds of tricky connections and buses that did not show up. I expected a crocodile farm the kind I had seen before, and when the taxi stopped driving in a sandy street of the Katchikally neighbourhood, I felt a good vibe in the air, and decided to explore the streets more after seeing the crocs. An artsy entrée gives way to the gardens, and to my shock, I saw an adult crocodile lying on the ground - well camouflaged. I continued walking, and saw two smaller crocs playing; when I tried to follow them, I got a remark by some guys sitting at a small pool that I should not get too close: the mother was around.

Picture of Katchikally Sacred Crocodile Pool (Gambia): Tail of one of the crocodiles

At first, I thought they were once more Gambians on the hunt for foreigners and their money, but they soon turned out to be the friendliest people I had met in the country. Just sitting a few steps away from a couple of adult crocs, they patiently explained that the crocodiles in the Katchikally pool are all tame. Indeed, you can walk around them, and even stroke them. From time to time, they move around, but they are considered safe. To me, that was a totally new sensation: the Nile crocodiles I had seen until then, had always lived in the wild, and looked awfully dangerous. The story is, that Katchikally was founded around four hundred years ago, and has gained significance as a place to increase fertility. Couples who do not get kids, come here for special ceremonies in a small space next to the pool I was shown. If they then get pregnant, the child is normally called after the neighbourhood.

Picture of Katchikally Sacred Crocodile Pool (Gambia): Duckweed-covered pool of Katchikally, home to the crocodiles

Even though there were only four crocodiles around, the guys told me that there were around a hundred in the Katchikally sacred pool. Another foreigner showed up, who turned out to be a compatriot, and for the first time since I left home, I was speaking my mother tongue again. I touched and stroked the skin of one of the crocs; the skin appeared to be remarkably soft. The size of the crocs is determined by their living environent: since they live in a small pool, they are relatively small for their age. I cautiously walked a trail through the park; there were more crocs out there, and I was still not sure any of them would like me step on it. I ended up talking more with the guys, visited the small museum at the entrance which holds artefacts of Gambian history and culture, and when I finally walked out of the gate, I just had enough time to walk to the beach to see the sun set.

Picture of Katchikally Sacred Crocodile Pool (Gambia): Resting crocodile seen from close-up
Picture of Katchikally Sacred Crocodile Pool (Gambia): One of the crocodiles seen from up front
Picture of Katchikally Sacred Crocodile Pool (Gambia): Tail of one of the crocodiles
Picture of Katchikally Sacred Crocodile Pool (Gambia): Nile crocodile near the pool
Picture of Katchikally Sacred Crocodile Pool (Gambia): Close-up of the head of one of the crocodiles near the pool
Picture of Katchikally Sacred Crocodile Pool (Gambia): Crocodile skin seen from up close near the pool
Picture of Katchikally Sacred Crocodile Pool (Gambia): Looking at a crocodile from above
Picture of Katchikally Sacred Crocodile Pool (Gambia): Close-up of crocodile with open mouth at the pool
Picture of Katchikally Sacred Crocodile Pool (Gambia): Sacred site for couples seeking higher fertility
Picture of Katchikally Sacred Crocodile Pool (Gambia): Wall paintings adorning the entrance to the crocodile pool of Katchikally
Picture of Katchikally Sacred Crocodile Pool (Gambia): Close-up of a tree in the small park around the crocodile pool
Picture of Katchikally Sacred Crocodile Pool (Gambia): The small museum of the crocodile pool has some interesting exhibits of local culture
Picture of Katchikally Sacred Crocodile Pool (Gambia): Board in the museum depicting the history of the crocodile pool

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