Seeing crocodiles in the zoo is fun. You can often see them up close, separated from them only by a thick sheet of glass. But what if that glass plate wasn’t there? That you can stand next to the crocodile yourself, touch it and even give it a paw? This is all possible at the Kachikally Crocodile Pool in Kachikally (Bakau) in Gambia, West Africa.
The crocodile pool
The Kachikally Crocodile Pool consists of two parts: the forest with the crocodile pool and a museum. The crocodile pool is a large pond whose water is almost invisible due to the enormous amount of duckweed. There are crocodiles around the pond. Some crocodiles lie directly on the water, while others are more hidden among the bushes and branches of trees.
The pond can only be visited under the supervision of a guide. The crocodiles at the front may be touched. The female crocodiles, which are often more hidden, should not be touched: because they have young ones or eggs, they can react aggressively to people who come too close.
The danger of an aggressive reaction from a male crocodile at the front of the pond is much smaller. This is because the animals are stuffed with food. In the wild they are used to eating once a week, while at the crocodile pool they are fed heavily in the morning and evening. This has made them too fat and lazy to do anything: they often only move to get more sun. Giving the animal a paw is also fine. Of course, there are guides present at the pond to keep a constant eye on the animals.
There is a museum next to the crocodile pool. This museum consists of four parts: local traditions, music, the World Wars and history.
In this first room of the museum, attributes related to Gambian traditions are displayed. This includes, for example, a large decorated mask that is worn at ceremonies such as weddings or announcing the name of a newborn baby.
The second room of the museum is filled with various musical instruments, all made by themselves. Some musical instruments are used to actually make music, while other instruments, especially drums, are more intended to transmit messages.
The World Wars
A third room of the museum pays attention to the Gambian soldiers who fought during the First and Second World Wars. There are photos on display and it is explained what role the soldiers played during the war.
The fourth and final room of the museum provides more information about the history of Gambia and the history of the crocodile pool. There are photos of the English Queen’s visit to Gambia and of the crocodile pool from the past.
Many Gambians see the Kachikally Crocodile Pool as a sacred place. For hundreds of years, the pond and the forest next to it have been used for traditions related to faith. For example, women who do not want to get pregnant come to the crocodile pool to pray and wash with the water from the pond. This would help you become more fertile. If the woman actually becomes pregnant, she often names the child Kachikally, named after the crocodile pool.
The Kachikally Crocodile Pool is located in the town of Kachikally, which is actually a suburb of Bakau. Bakau is a town about twelve kilometers west of Banjul, the capital of Gambia. The crocodile pool cannot be reached by public transport, but only by private car or taxi. For those traveling by taxi, the advice is: clearly agree on the price with the driver in advance. This prevents scams.
The entrance fee to the forest with the crocodile pool and the museum is 100 dalasis (about 2.32) per person. The crocodile pool is open daily from 9am to sunset. There is a toilet available and there are opportunities to buy souvenirs.
The Kachikally Crocodile Pool is not offered as an excursion by travel organizations in Gambia. This has everything to do with insurance: no insurance allows excursions where you come face to face with wild crocodiles unprotected. However, the crocodile pool can easily be visited with a local taxi or possibly with your own car. This can be parked in front of the entrance to the crocodile pool.