Late in May, Crystal Blues returned to the Tulai river, and found the children surprisingly reluctant to swim in the river. Then we discovered they had spotted some juvenuile crocodiles living down stream. It looked as though swimming was off the activity list, which was quite annoying given our hassles with crocs in Santubong.
Next day, the afternoon heat and the lure of the cool river overcame the crocodile fear. We all swam then, two or three times a day and our friends from the longhouse came down to the river each afternoon to bathe, swim and socialise. The crocodile threat appeared to be forgotton.
One night in the longhouse we asked if there had been any crocodile attacks on the Tulai River. The answer was a resounding NO - crocodiles are friends to the Iban people, and they live in harmony with the crocodiles. One day Ley, with young Jabu and Beretin, was coming back from town in the dinghy. They passed one of the smaller crocs sunning itself near the river bank. Jabu waved and said hello to the crocodile, maintaining that respectful relationship. Note that it took us five days of serious effort to eventually capture a photograph of that animal (about 2.5m long), as seen at right.
The Iban don't kill crocodiles, unless absolutely necessary. When we said we had actually eaten crocodile flesh (back in Australia) there was some consternation amongst our hosts....was this a bad omen ? The Iban who catch fish further upstream told us the crocodiles up there often damage their nets - so now we knew there were beasties both up and down the river. Yet we continued swimming, as did the locals, content that the respect between the animals and the people was real. Sitting back now, I can't tell you how we rationalised that, but it worked for us.