I craned my neck in the direction the sound had come from. I could see nothing in the darkness but I stared into the jungle all the same and tried to detect movement. The sound had not come from far off.
I turned my attention to the edge of the lake to see if the croc had taken any notice of it. Indeed he had. I could just make him out moving through the water to the edge of the lake.
As I watched him I heard a twig snap off in the direction the sound had come from. It was closer now. He was definitely coming. I began to shake and beads of perspiration formed on my brow and upper lip.
The sound I had heard could be nothing else but a jaguar. The Costa Ricans called them El Tigre. They were the kings of the jungle. They hunted by night, I knew, but I had been told that they rarely sought out humans and there hadn’t been an attack on one in a very long time.
I wondered what was attracting him to the lake and then remembered the blood and guts that had washed up on the shore. Jaguars have a powerful sense of smell. I looked back to where the croc was and saw that he had moved halfway out of the water onto the shore. He knew the cat was coming.
Again I heard movement in the woods and strained my eyes trying to catch a glimpse of the cat. The moon was half full and shining across the lake into the jungle. As I sat watching I caught sight of him. Two yellow orbs in the bush reflecting the moonlight not twenty yards from the shore. He was surveying the scene.
As I sat entranced he sauntered out of jungle as though he had not a care in the world. He stopped between the tree and the shore and stared at the crocodile. Then his head slowly turned and he was staring at me. My heart was racing and my breath caught in my throat.
Just then the croc opened his mouth wide and let out a roar. He was not about to let his prey be taken by the cat. The cat crouched and bared his fangs. I fumbled with my camera and adjusted the settings. It was going to near impossible to get shots without shake in the darkness but I was damned if I wasn’t going to try.
With blinding speed the cat pounced just as the croc decided to lunge forward. They came together in a split second and I began taking shots for all I was worth. The cat backed off quickly as the croc lunged for his throat. He began circling the croc and seemed to be luring him toward the water. Time after time he tried to get behind the croc. I could see he wanted to get his teeth into the back of its neck.
After a few minutes of quick circling he finally managed to get behind and on top of the croc. The croc hissed and fought for all he was worth but the cat dragged his head into the water and held him under with his powerful jaws. I thought I could see blood in the water.
As they struggled it occurred to me that my chance had come. The cat couldn’t afford to let go of the croc if he saw me jump down, he would be killed if he did. Adrenalin was pumping through my body. I leapt down without further thought, grabbed my pack and ran for all I was worth into the jungle, back the way I had come.
It took me several hours, but I made it to the ranger station and collapsed at the front door and passed out. I awoke the next day in a hospital bed in San Jose. So it was that my adventure in Central America had come to an abrupt halt.
However, I got some of the most amazing photos I have ever taken and I have a story to tell that I can dine out on for the rest of my life.