Mombasa’s Mamba Village, Home of 10,000 Crocodile Tears
The East Coast of Kenya is home to Kenya’s second largest city, Mombasa. It is an island which connects with the mainland through the Makupa Causeway to the west, Nyali Bridge to the north, and the Likoni Ferry to the South. The majority Mijikenda and Swahili people are the original natives of this tropical paradise that has centuries-old Arab influence, evident in the language and architecture, but with time, people from the mainland have also gained a foothold. The one million inhabitants of this tourist destination pride themselves as hosts to numerous attractions that include the Fort Jesus Museum, a marine park, the Old Town, a nature sanctuary, the Gedi Ruins, coastal cultural villages, sandy beaches, the Old Harbor, and many others. However, none compare with the famous Mamba Village which brings vividly to life the nature of one of the most feared reptiles on earth.
Mamba Village and “Big Daddy”
At the sprawling Mamba Village, over 10,000 crocodiles are housed in well maintained ponds. A typical tour begins with an instructive video presentation that reveals lifecycle and behavior, followed by a step by step walk through the farm, and ends with the unforgettable scenes of the feeding frenzy, always conducted at 5 p.m. This is the most interesting part of the visit, as crocs jump and leap in the air, fighting each other to grasp the meat. In one particular section is 5 meter long man-eating “big daddy”, known to have killed 5 people before it was subdued. This blind, 120 year old one-ton beast is the main attraction at East Africa’s largest crocodile farm. To wind up the visit, superbly grilled crocodile meat is served in the Mamba Restaurant.
There is a lot you learn at the village. The word “Mamba” is Swahili for crocodile and is widely used in the East African region. It is a reptile that has taken many lives in the numerous rivers, lakes, and wetlands of Kenya which are inhabited by communities in need of fish and water. A typical crocodile has 24 teeth in each jaw, used for grasping and crushing. The teeth do not chew, which is why crocodiles swallow stones to assist in grinding contents swallowed whole. Interestingly, these replies sweat through the mouth, an inventive way of cooling off and the main reason why they lie at riverbanks with their mouth open. What is amazing is that the jaws of a crocodile can be held together with the force of a rubber band, but the swift downward crushing force, working in concert with the powerful swoosh of the tail, subdues prey within seconds. Crocodiles may look lethargic out of water, but they gallop across short distances rapidly, albeit tiring quickly. Inside water is a different kettle of fish, as their tails propel them to speeds as high as 40 km per hour.
Some Interesting Facts about the Crocodile
The tour of Mamba Village takes about two and a half hours, and with enough patience, more will be revealed by the ever patient guides. Have you heard the phrase "Crying crocodile tears"? It describes pretentious behavior in humans and originates from a belief that crocodiles wipe their eyes when eating. Although true, crocs need to wipe their eyes because they froth and bubble when feeding. But what precedes the meal is the greatest spectacle. The eyes, nose, and ears of the “mamba” are above water, perfectly placed to watch prey while the rest of the body is submerged. Small sized crocodiles, or hatchlings, feed on crabs, fish, and frogs, while the adults prey on antelope, birds, snakes, even hyena, leopard, and lion. These cold blooded creatures lie in wait and leap at the last moment as the main strategy. Small quarry is usually dragged under water to suffocate, but it takes more crocodiles to overcome the larger prey; gripping, thrashing, and even twisting in opposite directions to tear flesh in a frenzied rush to gobble whole chunks. But crocodiles have their use in the environment; by feeding on carrion, they clean-up water sources, and as a tourist attraction, they are a sight to behold in awe and fear. There is no doubt that Mombasa, even though popular as a beach destination, has managed to enrich its tourism potential with the ever crowded Mamba Village.