I waved back at my friend who was waving back furiously from the raft that glided with the current towards me. I couldn’t believe what I was doing. I was swimming in the River Nile! That’s something to be checked off the bucket list! I was in Uganda in Africa teaching children and as we had a free weekend, my friend and I decided to do white-water rafting, as you do.
After an intensive morning of extreme white-water rafting down the River Nile clearing the rapids, we were faced with a three mile stretch of calm water before we reached the next round. Lunch was consumed, and on the advice of the guide, he told us we could go swimming providing we stayed close to the raft.
‘Aren’t there Crocodiles in the water?’ A fellow rafter questioned suspiciously. Reassuring there wouldn’t be any on this stretch of water, we all jumped in and frolicked about splashing each other and marvelling we were swimming in the longest river on Earth.
I wish I could have heard the sounds around me but being deaf meant that I had to leave my hearing aids at the start to avoid them getting wet. It was very hard for me to do that as I often don’t like my hearing aids to leave within three feet of my body so I had to entrust them to a guide who I’ve never seen before. However, my friend was pretty deaf aware and after a discussion with the guide who would be coming with us, it was agreed that I would sit behind my friend and basically copy what he did. With hilarious consequences sometimes! Sometimes we had to jump back into the raft in the middle from our paddling to stabilise the raft. This meant I would take my friend’s cue and jump on top of him screaming. Did I tell you, I’m manly? Despite not hearing anything for a good six hours, I rather enjoyed myself and it was the perfect opportunity to find out how I would cope without my hearing aids.
My friend gestured we should see who could swim the furthest. I’m never one to turn down a challenge and I knew I could beat him easily as unbeknownst to him, I used to be on a swimming team back at school.
Always in front, I swam as much downstream as I could in five minutes and turned round to see my friend swimming back to the raft in the distance.
‘Wimp!’ I shouted after him in a moment of victory and glory whilst fist pumping into the air. Feeling a little breathless, I decided to let the raft come closer to me with the current before climbing back on to celebrate with some delicious fruit. That’s when my friend started waving at me. I waved back to be friendly and I could see him shouting at me. But I had no hearing and I didn’t know what he was saying. He kept on waving and I grew annoyed that he was making me wave all the time. It wasn’t until when all the rafters were on the boat and started waving at me, particularly the guide, when I noticed something was amiss. When the boat came closer, I saw my friend start to point something behind me with a pale face.
Turning around in the water, I saw just about 40 metres away from me downstream, lay two crocodiles basking in the sun on the bank. One of them had their mouth open. Stunned, was probably the word that I had on my face. As one twitched their tail, it snapped (no pun intended) me out of my horrified fascination and I started slowly swimming back to the raft. By then, the raft had come close and I didn’t have much of a distance to swim.
As they pulled up me up by my life jacket, one of the crocodiles decided to take that moment to slip into the water. Stunned with relief, I turned to the guide and said,
‘I thought there weren’t any crocodiles in the water?!’
The guide simply shrugged his shoulders and replied,
‘Always a first time for everything…’
That is how I came close to swimming with crocodiles…