Get Up Close and Personal with Africa’s Apex Predator! The Nile Crocodile

Get Up Close and Personal with Africa’s Apex Predator! The Nile Crocodile

Closer to a Nile crocodile you cannot get! At Afrikanos you get to ‘free dive’ and swim with these majestic creatures. Our first in the world pool enclosure separates man and croc with a state-of-the-art stainless-steel net.

Everything You Need to Know About the Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus)


The large Nile crocodile is native to the freshwater habitats in Africa, living in different types of aquatic environments such as lakes, rivers, swamps, and marshlands.

They are present in 26 countries, widely distributed throughout sub-Saharan Africa, occurring mostly in the central, eastern, and southern regions of the continent.

This species once stretched northward throughout the Nile, as far north as the Nile Delta, but the Nile River in Egypt has not had crocodiles since the 1960s, when they built the high Aswan dam.

It is however important to note that the Nile is a long river, crossing 9 countries: Burundi, Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda before reaching Egypt. The Nile crocodiles are commonly found in the Nile in these countries.

There are also Nile crocodiles in the regions south and southwest of the Aswan Dam, including Lake Nasser.

On average, the adult male Nile crocodile is between 2.94 and 4.4 meters in length and can weigh up to 414.50 kilograms. Specimens exceeding 6.1 meters in length and weighing up to 1,089 kilograms have been recorded. 

The females however are usually about 30% smaller than males. Mature female Nile crocodiles typically measure 2.2 to 3.8 meters, at which lengths the average female specimen would weigh 40 to 250 kilograms.

Hunting and Diet

Nile crocodiles are very aggressive and opportunistic apex predators, capable of taking down almost any animal, being generalists, their diet consists mostly of different species of fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals.

Characterized by the ability of preying both within water, and on land, hunting on land is done at night, which often results in unpredictable attacks on animals up to twice their size.

The Nile crocodiles are the only species of crocodiles that kill more people than any other species of crocodiles, it has been recorded that these apex predators kill up to 2000 people per year. 

A large Nile Crocodile is able to swallow a human whole.

Nile crocodiles normally crawl along on their bellies, but they can also “high walk” with their trunks raised above the ground. 

Agile predators, they will wait days for the opportunity for prey to come within attack range and are capable of reaching speeds of up to 14 km/h.

Nile crocodiles usually dive for only a few minutes at a time but can swim under water up to 30 minutes if threatened, and if they remain fully inactive, they can hold their breath for up to 2 hours.

In water they are capable of reaching speeds of up to 35 km/h, this is more than three times faster than a human.

Relatively social, they share basking spots and large food sources, such as big carcasses and schools of fish, their strict hierarchy is determined by size. 

The large, old males are at the top of this hierarchy; they have the best basking spots and get first access to food.

Physical Appearance

Nile crocodiles have thick, scaly, heavily armoured skin and a very powerful bite, the mouths of Nile crocodiles are filled with 64 to 68 sharply pointed conical teeth that grip for holding down large prey to drown underwater.

Once their prey is dead, they tear off and swallow large chunks of meat in a “death roll”.

Adult Nile crocodiles’ flanks are yellowish green in colour, they have dark patches arranged in oblique stripes in highly variable patterns, an off-yellow belly and green eyes.

Relative to the environment they live in, some variation occurs; Nile crocodiles who live in swift-flowing waters tend to be lighter in colour than those living in murkier lakes or swamps, this provides camouflage to suit their environment.

Their skin, sides of the body, as well as the throat, has a number of integumentary sense organs that react to changes in water pressure, allowing them to track prey movements in the water.

Their nostrils, eyes, and ears are situated on the top of the head, so the rest of the body can remain concealed under water. They have a nictitating membrane that protects the eyes and lachrymal glands to cleanse the eyes with tears.

What You Did Not Know!

Fascinatingly these reptiles have a four-chambered heart, although modified for their ectothermic nature due to an elongated cardiac septum, physiologically similar to the heart of a bird, which is especially efficient at oxygenating their blood.

Nile crocodiles have exceptionally high levels of lactic acid in their blood, which would kill most vertebrates, this allows them to sit motionless in water for up to 2 hours.

However, these high levels of lactic acid can lead to death through overly extended periods of physical struggling and stress, leading to failure of the animal’s internal organs.

Generally, Nile crocodiles are relatively inert creatures, but are said to be constantly aware of their surroundings and aware of the presence of other animals, if left undisturbed, these cold-blooded creatures can spend hours continuously basking with their jaws open in sunny conditions.

Mouth-gaping, which is essential to thermoregulation, also serves as a threat display to other crocodiles, if their jaws are bound together in the extreme midday heat, Nile crocodiles could easily die from overheating.

In winter Nile crocodiles are more easily observed in South Africa, because of the extensive amount of time they spend basking in the sun, whereas more time is spent in the water when it is overcast or raining.

Mating and Reproducing

The males attract females by bellowing, blowing water out of their noses, slapping their snouts in the water, and making a variety of other noises, during the mating season.

Physical fighting between males can be brutal and can end in mortality but typically end with the winner and loser still alive, the latter withdrawing into deep waters to recover from the onslaught.

Once the male has attracted the female, they engage in tender behaviour of rubbing the undersides of their jaws together. 

Compared to the tender behaviour of the female accepting the male, copulation is rather rough in which the male often roars and pins the female underwater.

Like a scene from, 50 Shades of Nile Crocodile😉

Fascinatingly enough these cold-blooded Nile crocodiles are monogamous creatures! The females lay and guard their eggs about two months after mating, and although the hatchlings are protected for a period of time they are not fed by their parents, but hunt by themselves.


Successful sustainable-yield programs focused on ranching crocodiles for their skins, this species is farmed mostly for its leather, and trade is controlled.

Crocodile ‘protection programs’ are “manmade” environments where crocodiles exist safely and without the threat of extinction. 

Nile crocodile meat is generally considered unappetizing, has an unpleasant taste, greasy texture and a “pungent” smell.

The IUCN Red List assesses the Nile crocodile as “Least Concern (LC)” as there are an estimated 500,000 occurring in the wild today.

Fun Fact

The Nile crocodile is called timsah al-nil in Arabic, mamba in Swahili, garwe in Shona, ngwenya in Ndebele, ngwena in Venda, kwena in Sotho and Tswana, and tanin ha-yeor in Hebrew. It also sometimes referred to as the African crocodile, Ethiopian crocodile, common crocodile, or black crocodile.

Come wet yourself!

Crocodile diving encounters are open Tues. – Sun. at 11:00, 13:00 and 15:00. Diving encounters are open daily during school holidays. Please enquire for group bookings. No under 6-year-olds allowed. Minors between 6 and 12 years old must be accompanied by a paying adult.

Book Now and enjoy the ultimate crocodile encounter, make a reservation, 082 220 3344 or visit us at 48 Van Blommenstein Street, Danger Point, Gansbaai.

For a thrilling close encounter, Afrikanos in Gansbaai, is home to five of the country’s largest captive-bred Nile crocodiles, here you will meet the predators of the Nile, face-to-face, surrounded by beautiful scenery, natural fynbos and history!

Please follow us on social media or visit us at www.afrikanos.co.za

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