The alligator’s nostrils and eyes poked up through the water’s surface as the beast lay in wait for its next meal. Just 20 feet from us, it was as still as the glassy water.
“I’m going to get a picture just to show J there are alligators here,” J said.
“Sure. Me, too,” I said and lifted my camera to my face.
(click any pic to enlarge)
We each shot a few pictures. Our relatively loud shutters did not faze the reptile, but a few of the shorebirds walked several steps in the opposite direction.
I wondered whether the heavy tripod I had with me would slow down a charging alligator even if I happened to score a direct hit. Running away from such a fast-moving predator at that distance was not an option, unless I could climb a tree before it reached me. What was the protocol? Wait until the last second and then jump over it?
Better yet: WWSID? What Would Steve Irwin Do?
The gator suddenly lifted its head and opened its jaws. It bit down and we heard crunching. From the sides of its mouth hung the distinct legs of a blue crab.
Our shutter fingers went crazy clicking pictures. My manual focus, manual everything lens kept me guessing a bit at first, but J kept his finger down for rapid-fire photos.
The gator opened only far enough to bite down again, and we heard more sounds of the crab’s carapace being broken to pieces. This repeated a few times until the gator swallowed its prey.
I fumbled with my camera bag to pull out my video camera, but by the time I pointed it the right direction, the gator was finished. He sank back into the water and slowly swam away from us.
I had never seen an alligator outside a zoo or an aquarium’s rainforest exhibit. After that and some good looks at various bird species, we returned to the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge several times during our Sanibel Island trip. For me it was as rewarding as the beach, if not more.
We saw more gators, but never any that were feeding. I don’t know exactly what they consider a respectable distance, but apparently we never broke that invisible barrier. If they noticed us at all, they did a great job of hiding it.
Note: the photos featured in this post were cropped for online display