I am reading Escape Routes by David Roberts. This is a collection of 20 articles ranging from a winter ascent in Iceland to the first descent of a river in Ethiopia, the Tekeze, a major tributary of the Blue Nile.

There are a lot of crocodiles on the Tekese, which runs through a deep canyon, 7,000 feet at its deepest. Roberts and his companions (founders of Mountain Travel Sobek) had to hike down 1,100 feet to get to the place where they could put in their rafts. So it doesn't seem like they could get far away from the river, particularly since they had 8,000 pounds of equipment. They were making a film for Mungo Park, an online adventure magazine funded by Bill Gates in the mid-1990s.

Roberts talks a good deal about the crocodiles in the river, for example:

On other Ethiopian streams, the guides had had boats bitten by crocs. Sure enough, by our fifth day, the occasional croc was charging a boat. Our response was to throw baseball-sized rocks (which we loaded up every morning) at the beasts. A week down the river, Bart Henderson drily mentioned that his boat had just dealt with our first "four rock croc".

But every evening, they had to camp by the river, and they also pulled into the river bank at other times for photography. Roberts says nothing -- nothing at all -- about how they protected their camp and themselves from the crocs while ashore or getting ashore.

They noticed that there were no habitations along the river, although people lived high up the surrounding cliffs and came down to cultivate the river banks because of lack of rain.

An inhabitant explained that the lack of dwellings beside the river was because of "the shaking sickness" -- malaria. He said his people could live with the crocodiles.

The last few sentences of the article kill the possibility that crocs cannot move fast on land:

The boat floats past a big croc on shore, who looks asleep. Suddenly the reptile spots the boat and charges towards the camera, running like a tailback across the stones, plunging into the water and swimming hard for Steve's offending lens.

My question is: How does one deal with crocodiles when there is no option but to camp on the shores of a croc infested river? The article does not give even a hint.

  • 1
    Crocodiles are fast on land, but only in very short bursts (crocodile legs, like their hearts and lungs, show signs of having ones been adapted to an active warm blooded lifestyle, but those changes have mostly been undone in one way or another by adapting further to their current lifestyle). The main problem at least while awake would be not getting ambushed from the water. If you can see a croc coming odds are you can outrun it. I agree it would have been interesting to read how they handled it. Especially at night with people sleeping. I suppose they had people stand guard with rocks?
    – Monster
    Commented Nov 22, 2018 at 6:35
  • 1
    I imagine they brought more than just rocks with them.
    – ShemSeger
    Commented Nov 22, 2018 at 16:37

2 Answers 2


If I were in such a situation, and not alone, my best bet would be rotating shifts of sentry. When its about camping, the whole problem escalates when everyone is asleep, or more evidently when someone is doing the dishes after dinner, or things like that. Though you stand chances that you can outrun a crocodile on land, the risk is maximum in initial attacking moments. Remember, they are quicker than we can imagine.

  1. Pick a place which is at least a 50 m away from river
  2. Pick a place which is not very nearby sliding tracks/marks of crocodiles, I can't think of a safer distance in numbers, its debatable, but longer the better.
  3. As a basic camping habit, do not throw extra/waste edibles around the place where you are camping, this goes without saying irrespective where you are camping.
  4. People I know who have apt knowledge about crocodiles have always warned about the schedule one follow. Do not make a schedule/pattern of certain tasks you do when you are camping for a longer time. Example, do not fill water from the same place twice, do not do the dishes at the same place nearby campsite. Crocodiles are smart, and they can ambush based on this kind of deterministic pattern.
  5. If you have/want to fish, fish from an elevated bank. Do not doze off while fishing.
  6. Keep a companion with you.
  • 1
    +1 #4 is a surprise. I've not thought of reptiles as smart, although I believe that animals are much smarter than most of us think. I suppose all predators have to be smart.
    – ab2
    Commented Nov 23, 2018 at 22:36

You've already gotten excellent advice!

My research offers a few additional suggestions.

Before going, if possible, find some local people in the area and ask for advice. They generally know a lot more than we who are camping for the first time, and might be happy to share! This can be especially helpful if you can be flexible in choosing your spot.

Crocodiles can be intimidated if you stare at them. If you see one, including on land, keep a safe distance and stay still and stare, holding a steady gaze.

If there's a croc or alligator on land, let it know that you're watching it.

From a safe distance, stare at it and never take your eyes off of it - it may be intimidated and not come any closer.

A few sites, including this, recommend avoiding camping near crocodiles during their breeding time, which is September to April. Like many other animals, they're extra protective when tending to their young ones.

Obviously, you can't always build your itinerary around this season! It's just something to be aware of.

Some crocodiles only eat once a week, and some can go as long as several months, so it's possible to be safe for some days. However, that's not a great barometer!

The fact that the crocodile can go for about a week (in some cases months) without a meal means he doesn’t have to hunt as frequently as other animals. Still, if a meal comes along daily or several times a day they will take advantage of it.  Source.

As you've been told, there are ways to be safe and enjoy your camping trip, but vigilance is important.

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