By Richard Ashmore
Watch out for the REP-tide – this is the moment a massive 2.5 metre crocodile was spotted stalking the swimming nets off a popular Australian beach.
Welshman John Paul Whelan and his girlfriend Tina were in Palm Cove, near Cairns, Queensland, Australia, on January 23 when they took a friend from Canada down to the beach to go for a swim around 4pm.
John Paul, who runs his own eco-travel agency www.treehuggertravel.com.au, said nearly a hundred people gathered on the beach to watch the croc which could be seen in the water for over two hours.
Palm Cove is a popular beach resort with Aussies and international visitors with scores of hotels, restaurants and camp sites close to the beautiful white sands.
Crocodile warning signs are clearly visible along the waterfront and lifeguards and rangers patrol the area keeping an eye out for crocs and sharks in the area.
John Paul said: “We got down there and a ranger was there looking at the nets, they put nets out for the jellyfish, but literally the ranger was standing by there watching a crocodile that was there at the side of the swimming net.
“The crocodile went under the water and then he popped up at another place around the net, then he was just going up and down and everyone on the beach was pointing and saying ‘he’s here’, ‘he’s over there’.
“He was probably about 10-foot from the beach at one point. People would see him surface and then when they shouted he went back down under the water.
“He was probably over two-and-a-half metres, which is a big croc and big enough to take somebody out. There was a chance the croc could get into the swimming nets because if there’s a big swell it can go over the top of the boom.
“Everyone on the beach and all the children were screaming ‘there’s a crocodile’ and all the people were from all over the place, there were actually a couple of young Welsh guys that saw it come closest to the shore.
“There were old people, locals, backpackers and youngsters all trying to help this one ranger. It was a massive social gathering helping the ranger keep an eye on the croc.
“The other rangers were running up and down the beach helping people get out of the water.”
John Paul, who lives in Cairns, said it wasn’t the first time he’d seen a croc but he’d never seen one on the beach before.
He said: “I’ve seen them in the rivers and in the road drains, and in Cairns opposite where the boats park up. They are always pretty close up here and even if you don’t see them they probably see you.
“We were there with the ranger and it was just swimming between the pier and the nets for about two-and-a-half hours until it went dark and then no one knows where it went.”
John Paul said the croc probably hung around so long because every time it went near the pier at the end of the beach people would shout out and so it would turn around again.
John’s business www.treehuggertravel.com.au is an ethical travel agency, so 25 percent of the revenue is donated to the World Land Trust, whose patron is David Attenborough, and the organisation buys endangered rainforest to save it.