Crocodile Dundee, stranded in a Cancun Lagoon
Updated: Jan 24, 2021
I was 24 years old when I decided to go on my 4th Club Med trip (my mom had 50% discounts given she worked for an airline). To lower the price even further I elected to go with what they called the "Wild Card option". This option meant that you essentially got to go to Club Bed, um pardon me, Club Med at a significantly reduced rate. In return, Club Med would pick the village you'd be going to, and you’d be notified only a week prior to your departure.
Cancun ended up being my village of destination. Not that Cancun was a bad place for a young and shall we say, eager, single, 24-year old male, to spend a week in, but I had hoped that I would get Martinique instead. Why Martinique? Well, for two reasons: first of all, the Club Med in Martinique attracted women from all of Europe, yes, including the ones who go topless on the beaches. Secondly, contrary to the Club Bed, um Med, in Cancun, the village in Martinique was in the middle of nowhere and thus guests had nowhere else to go party at night. As you can therefore easily imagine, 'meetings' took place there a lot more frequently. But as I said earlier, let's leave the inappropriate "bedtime” stories for another time. In my previous two visits to this particular village in Cancun, I'd spent my time doing more partying than partaking in any of the activities offered. I wanted to use this trip however to get back into shape, particularly since I had suffered pneumonia only a couple of months earlier, rendering me inactive for weeks. Although I had never tried it before, I figured waterskiing could be a start, before moving on to more 'adventurous' sports like say scuba diving. This resort had both a beach and another area which was a lagoon (no not the Blue Lagoon unfortunately). The only time I had been to the lagoon was to board one of the Club Med 'Booze Cruises', which was, in essence a party boat where you'd get intoxicated with tequila-laden tropical drinks, and then once off the boat (if you were so lucky to make it on your two feet), you'd walk over to a discreet corner to puke your lungs out (and occasionally, for some, immediately hop back on for a second booze cruise and load up on some more Mexican Mules).
I arrived at 10 AM for my water-skiing lesson and started socializing with some of the people there. A few minutes later the Chief of the Village, who was giving the lessons that day, began talking to us about the basics of waterskiing. You'd put the water-skis on like this, jump in the water get behind the boat, bend your knees, arms firmly locked in front of you and hold on to the rope and as the boat would begin to accelerate, if your positioning and balance were right, you'd be skiing on top of the water. Seemed simple enough. One by one they went in and they all came up and skied on the water for at least a few seconds. That was when, looking across the lagoon I noticed a small island with what seemed to be some creatures on it, too faint to make out what they were. So I asked the Chef du Village, Jean-Louis, what they were, upon which he replied (in his thick French accent), "Zey are croco-DIE-als...". "Croco DIE als?!" I yelled, unintentionally mimicking his accent "You're kidding right, we're waterskiing with crocodiles??! WTF man are we playing Pitfall here?!"
"Relax" said the Frenchman, cool as a French concombre, "you av nott ing to worry habout, we feed them regoolarly and bee-side, hen they hear de motor of the boat, they gonna get scare han swim away from it". "Pardon my French? You mean they are in the water with us? This is a joke right?" (Am I on the set of The Truman show I began to ask myself)
"No joke" he said, "leesen, you ave more chance of beeing it by lightning than being heaten or hattack by croco-DIE-al". I kept looking at the water, looking white as a ghost, contemplating how I could get the heck out of there, without embarrassing myself in front of the other foolish dudes behind me. Perhaps I should be a man like the rest of them? I'm sure that the waterskiing in the lagoon had been happening for years and had something tragic happened, this Club Med would have shut down or at least, it would have made the news? Right? "Ok, you go in zee water now, is your tour" the Chef Boyardee said. So in I went, shaking like a damn epileptic. I prayed and cursed and just told myself over and over to be a tough hombre to "man up". The boat came around and I was given the rope to hold on to. The Chef hollered "Good luck!", but as I had barely begun feeling a tad more comfortable, I noticed something impossible truly surreal, quite possibly the worst thing I needed to see at this point in time: as the Chef was waving goodbye to me, I noticed, lord behold, that he was missing two fingers! Yes, his right hand had only 3 fingers.
Petrified beyond belief, I peeed in my speedos (I know, I know, what was I thinking wearing speedos at that age and worse peeing in the crocodile infested waters). And as luck would have it, the boat took off and I immediatly lost my grip on the rope, floating there, in horrified, with no motor sound nearby to scare off zee croco-DIE-als.
It felt like I was like the guy in the movie 'Open Water' right before the sharks devoured him. Thankfully though I made it out unscathed. In fact, I left everything and swam back to the dock which was quite close and got the hell out of the lagoon. I would be told later on that week, that the Chef lost his two fingers apparently feeding one of the crocodiles during mating season. Can I ask you folks, no honestly, is it just me overdramatizing? DO YOU think it's NORMAL to have the guests in your village waterskiing with dozens of man-eating crocodiles in the water? I mean what if they forget to give one of them their afternoon “snack” (of Chef fingers) one day do you think the crocodile will pass on an opportunity to eat a live human body?! The same way I’ve always failed to understand who would go on those excursions that offer you the opportunity to 'swim with sharks'. Is it me or should the organizers be the ones paying us to do this? How can this be considered a FUN VACATION? “Oh but Sir they are nurse sharks, not that dangerous” Oh great, so they can eat my arm off and then tend to me when I’ve become their patient. Makes sense I guess!