Banco Chinchorro stands out as one of Mexico’s most vibrant coral reef sites, hosting a diverse array of unique marine life. Among the remarkable inhabitants of these reefs are crocodiles, creatures that typically instill fear in us. The mere mention of crocodiles usually triggers a sense of apprehension, leading us to avoid any encounters and steering clear of waters known to be infested with these predators.
In stark contrast to this common sentiment, Bartolomeo Bove is unafraid and even ventures to swim with crocodiles. In July 2020, he embarked on a journey to Banco Chinchorro with the explicit purpose of diving alongside American crocodiles. Positioned 35 kilometers off the southeastern coast of Quintana Roo, a Mexican state, Banco Chinchorro is the largest atoll reef. Designated as a biosphere reserve, it also serves as a temporary home for fishermen during lobster season.
This reef shelters over 500 American crocodiles, constituting the densest population worldwide. These crocodiles boast genetic purity due to their isolated geographical location, mainly occupying a lagoon on the central island of the atoll. Interestingly, the coexistence between fishermen and crocodiles is harmonious, as the discarded fish scraps from filleted catches become a source of sustenance for the crocodiles. Surprisingly, these powerful and highly intelligent animals peacefully share the waters next to the stilt houses of the fishermen.
Venturing into the pristine waters beneath the stilted houses, Bove engages with these creatures, emphasizing that his safety lies in approaching them strategically – either directly in front of them or at their eye level. In an interview with “WhatzViral,” Bove describes his firsthand experience, stating, “The crocodiles are extraordinary creatures, and being in their presence, so close, in their natural domain was for me a truly breathtaking experience.” Despite the awe-inspiring encounter, he advises anyone considering swimming with crocodiles to never take their eyes off these formidable predators.