Crocworld, situated on the outskirts of Scottburgh on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast, is one of the more interesting venues to visit in this part of the world. Opened in 1985, Crocworld was originally built to farm Nile crocodiles to produce crocodile skins for the European markets. Over time some members of the public wanted the opportunity to observe these prehistoric reptiles in surroundings that closely resemble their natural habitat. Their calls were heeded and a second section called “Croc tourism” was opened …
Crocworld administrators then decided to bring in animals such as meerkats, Black-backed jackals and a variety of bird species to add some spice to the mix. Soon the public were being charged a small fee for the privilege of seeing these animals and the Crocworld of today was born.
In recent years the establishment added a curio shop and a restaurant to its growing list of attractions not least of which are its ever increasing number of mammal, bird and reptile species. I visited Crocworld this past weekend with some friends and what a pleasant and informative visit it proved to be.
After paying our entrance fees we passed through the swing gate where we encountered our first animal of the day – a rather scary looking reticulated python. Native to East Asia, these huge serpents are the world’s longest reptiles and longest snakes (adults can reach lengths of up to 8.7m) and the specimen in question certainly looked the part – its thick coils and rather large triangular shaped head giving it a distinctly imposing stance.
The rest of the reptile display featured a variety of serpents from different parts of the globe with our very own Black mamba and the East African Gaboon viper probably winning the award for the most intimidating of the lot. Both of these snakes are highly venomous and need to be given a wide berth, although in the case of the expertly camouflaged Gaboon, this is easier said than done.
Crocworld conducts venomous snake demonstrations on weekends to educate the public on the very important role these fascinating creatures play in nature. Venomous snake handling, identification and the treatment of snakebites courses are also presented every three months.
After bidding farewell to our slithery friends we were greeted by probably the most evocative sound of Africa – a loud cry from Isis, the resident African Fish Eagle. Found through much of Southern Africa, these large eagles prey on fish, turtles, baby crocodiles and flamingos and are found predominately near freshwater lakes, reservoirs or rivers. Like all caged birds at Crocworld, Isis has been rehabilitated and is unable to be released into the wild. However, she seemed happy enough and had it not been for the concerted efforts of the Crocworld staff, Isis would have perished a long time ago.
A little further on from Isis’ cage we encountered a clearing and were met by the sight of literally hundreds of crocodiles all basking in the afternoon sun. Thankfully they were all safely contained in their enclosures although they were still truly an awesome sight to behold. The vast majority of Crocworld’s crocs are Niles although the park also houses a small collection of alligators, African Dwarf crocodiles and African Long Snouted crocodiles. Although there are a number of attractions at Crocworld the main draw card is probably 111-year-old Henry, the oldest known crocodile in captivity. A 4m, 750kg monster, Henry was captured in 1903 by an elephant hunter in the Okavango Delta in Botswana. Even at his advanced age Henry is showing no sign of slowing down and lives with his 10 wives who produce over 400 babies a year!
Crocworld houses over 200 breeding Nile crocodiles in six spacious enclosures where up to six females are kept together with a single male croc. After each of the pregnant females finds a suitable nesting site they will dig a hole and lay their eggs in it. Staff will then collect the eggs and take them to incubator rooms where they will be kept for about 80 days. After hatching the little crocs are removed from their incubator rooms and placed into a “hot room” where they will remain for about two days. Following this all hatchlings will be ready to sell to any registered organisation in possession of the required permits.
The park’s breeding stock of Nile crocodiles was brought in from Botswana and the KwaZulu-Natal Parks board in the 1980s. Significant emphasis has been placed on recreating as natural an environment as possible for the breeding crocs, which has greatly enhanced the viewing experience. In addition to Henry the other major attraction at Crocworld are the feeding demonstrations and talks which are conducted every day (except Mondays) at 11am and 3pm. Our host Manie impressed us with his knowledge of Nile crocodiles and was ready to answer any questions we had on his favourite subject.
Among the more interesting facts about Nile crocodiles is that they are currently being researched in the hope of finding a cure for the many deadly diseases which plague mankind. Their powerful immune systems have attracted the attention of the medical profession for some time and scientists are hoping to unlock the many potentially life-saving secrets hidden within their DNA.
Of all the mammals at Crocworld the meerkats are without a doubt my favourite. Classified as part of the mongoose family, meerkats live in clans of up to 20 members and are some of the most adorable animals on the planet. They are extremely mischievous and playful, almost in the manner that a bunch of naughty children are. The meerkats at Crocworld are very tame and their keeper was quite happy to pluck one off the ground and allow us to touch it. The sensation is pretty much like stroking a pet dog or cat and I was almost tempted to take one of the little tykes home with me – they were that cute.
Another feature of the park that is rather impressive is the walk-through aviary where I was able to get a close up view of South Africa’s national bird – the very graceful and elegant Blue crane. The specimen in question appeared to have no fear of me whatsoever, walking straight up to my camera lens making for a really great shot.
With the temperature beginning to drop it was time to head off home, but not before saying a quick hello and goodbye to a brilliantly coloured Toco toucan which was housed in a smallish enclosure near the exit. This spectacular bird has a huge 20cm bill that accounts for 30-50 percent of its body surface area – the largest beak to body size of all birds. Truly amazing!
I really enjoyed my visit to Crocworld. I learnt a lot about a number of different animal species, sampled some really great food at the on site Le Rendez-vous restaurant and meant a really interesting person in Manie, whose passion for crocodiles was evident for all to see.
The entrance fee of R50 was well worth it and if you ever find yourself holidaying on the South Coast, make sure you pay this venue a visit. You definitely won’t be disappointed. (see more photographs in the Gallery below)
Tel: +27 (0)39 976 1103
Address: Scottburgh, South Coast, KwaZulu-Natal
- Scottburgh Attractions
- South Coast Attractions
- South Coast Accommodation
- KwaZulu Natal Accommodation
Flickr Photo Gallery: