On Fridays the kindergarten closes at lunch time and last week our younger two daughters, on leaving school, pleaded with me to take them to Mamba Village. I thought, Oh why not, I haven’t taken them there for years, so I swung the car into the next door car park. The place was heaving with groups of identically clothed bubbly school children who piled off buses, swarmed in waiting groups of 50 or so in various shades of blue or red or green and formed pretty crocodiles of their own, in an orderly but giggly fashion.
After paying our entrance, we slipped in between school parties and had a look at the crocs. There was an enclosure with baby ones, another with middle aged ones, then the girls, then boys and finally old, bordering on ancient crocs (they can live until 100 in captivity I learned). A guide picked up a baby croc for us to touch then when we had finished, he tossed it over his shoulder back into the pond behind with a flourish and, I might add, not all that much love.
My youngest was whinging, ‘pick me up, pick me up!’ She was tiring of looking at the open mouthed basking crocodile (age 25) through wire mesh. The crocodile expelled air through its nostrils right up against the fence and sort of hissed in a forbidding manner. I said, ‘look, he doesn’t have a tongue’ and picked up my daughter. She asked to sit on the fence and look down. I said, ‘no, I am too frightened.’
Our guide said, ‘yes, you must be careful.’ then added as an aside, ‘a child got eaten by a crocodile in Mamba Village in Mombasa last year.’
I was staggered!
‘Tell me how it happened?!’ I asked incredulously.
‘It was a tourist’ the guide said, ‘It was very bad. The father was holding his son up over the wire so that he could see, kind of playing with him and one of the crocodiles jumped into the air and grabbed the child.’
‘Then what happened?!’ I asked, fascinated by the horror story,
‘the crocodile took him into the water and rolled him’
‘did he die?’ I asked morbidly.
Suddenly, I didn’t fancy hanging around the crocodile enclosures any more – much to both of my daughters extreme annoyance.
Instead we walked around the ornamental lake (without lurking crocs I was assured) and watched a baby giraffe fed x 25 half litre plastic packets of milk from a tiny baby bottle (the giraffe has this amount twice a day). I told the keeper ‘you need a bigger baby bottle!’ as he labouriously refilled and refuelled the giraffe. I expect that he had heard that one before because he didn’t really bother answering. He did give us all a go though and the giraffe gulped down the milk expertly, each bottle in five seconds.
We saw rather a mangy ostrich and some rabbits in a cage. I paid for the girls to have a go on rather a shambolic looking fair ride which comprised metal cars on a roundabout, pushed by hand (two men, one on each side). We had to have one child diametrically opposite the another for reasons of balance. After that, the ride operator indicated a similarly wobbly looking ‘big wheel’ but I declined and shuffled my children away. A school party swarmed onto the car ride and I could suddenly see why the strength of two men was sometimes necessary to make it go round.
Suddenly my girls were shattered, and the youngest felt she didn’t have the energy to walk back to the car, so I coaxed her round with rather pathetic ruses. ‘come and look at the lovely pink flowers!’ etc. refusing to pick her up.
The reason I would not relent and carry her was entirely down to shame. When we were in England at Easter my mother in law told me that she had to resort to taking my daughter for an English country walk in a wheel barrow when I wasn’t there (we had failed to produce a push chair thinking that our daughter was far too old for that). Growing up in Africa means that aged 3 (nearly 4) my daughter is still not accustomed to walking for any distance. Her life of perpetually climbing in and out of cars to go anywhere means that while she can run around happily at school with her friends, getting from A to B is another matter.
Soon, it was way past my lunchtime and I was feeling as weary as my daughter. The crocodile visit was fun but hopefully will not be repeated for some time.