Day 1,215: A Big Fat Croc

Sun 29.04.12:

On our way to Hong Kong now, but we still have a couple of pitstops along the way. First up, Davao on the Philippine island of Mindanao. Now Mindanao gets quite a bad press on account of those murderous muslim militants, who, amusingly enough, call themselves the MILF (I guess they didn’t get the memo). But the city of Davao is remarkably safe. Why? Because if you’re naughty, the mayor will have you killed. Seriously. Like Boris Johnson.

Third Mate Michael is getting off the ship today, his tour is over so he’s flying home for a few weeks. I’ll miss sitting up on the bridge with him drinking tea and making fun of the MILF. Since we would be in port all day, Second Mate Kenny offered to take Chief Engineer Arkadiusz and I to the nearby Crocodile Farm.

The crocs looked happy enough, and I got to get a cool picture of me holding an albino python and a baby crocodile, but there were other animals in the zoo that didn’t look so content – you know, the ones that don’t naturally sit there all day waiting for food to come along. Don’t get me wrong, I have no objection to zoos per se, I think they serve a vital educational role as well as help endangered species which would have otherwise become extinct, but when I see a fellow primate in a tiny cage, it doesn’t make me happy – they could at least give them a decent area to roam about.

One of our third cousins – an orang-utan – was laying in a cage not much bigger than my jail cell in Congo. I know great apes are capable of higher-level emotions, and this one looked bored shitless. I guess that’s were I draw the line on the issue of animals in captivity – the orang-utan sanctuaries in Malaysian Borneo were much more humane, giving the rangas a much wider range in a living forest. Stick to the crocodiles, Davao!

Talking of crocodiles, a wild croc in Philippines recently hit the headlines as the largest living specimen ever caught, if it was anything like the monster croc they had in this zoo, then it must have taken twenty men to take the thing down, damn they can grow big!

The zoo is actually a crocodile farm (quite what the orang-utans are doing there is anyone’s guess), and so it seemed fitting that after gawping at the grizzly authority of these magnificent creatures that we should eat one in order to re-affirm humankind’s position at the very top of the food chain. So Arka and I helped ourselves to a couple of tasty crocodile sausages – although Kenny would have none of it. Oh don’t look at me like that, it’s the circle of life – haven’t you seen The Lion King?

After croc city, Kenny took us to the local shopping mall for a ton of lunch – traditional Filipino fare – seafood in oyster sauce, satay beef, fragrant rice… nice! Kenny and Arka headed back to the ship, leaving me in the shopping mall. You see, there was a battle coming, and I had to be ready with all my wits (and free wi-fi) about me. HSBC had blocked my debit card in Palau, probably because the hamsters that work for HSBC have never heard of Palau and therefore naturally assume that it’s in Guatemala.


The problem was that the internet signal in the Starbucks coffee was so weak that Skype was running like a bucket of bolts (I refused to buy any coffee in protest). After SEVERAL HOURS of trying to get through, I was told that my card had been used in Guatemala(?) and the USA(?!). I was later to find out that both of these times had been me, in Palau, which presumably – as far as HSBC is concerned – moves around the world much in the matter of the island out of ‘Lost’.

After speaking to three people from three different departments, the guy on the end of the string-and-tin Skype line refused to go any further unless I had a decent line.

Since they had put the shits up me by telling me my card had been used in Guatemala and the USA, I said they could call me back on my UK mobile phone number, at a cost to me of about £5 a minute, but they would have to be quick, since it’s got to be a damn good sex-line for me to waste £5 a minute on it.

They called me back only to tell me they had to put me through to yet another department. Mercifully, I ran out of credit before they could put me through. A fine waste of £11.72 that I really don’t have to waste right now.

Buggering this for a game of soldiers, I headed to a pub called Kaori’s Place to meet up with Arka. My directions had said it was opposite JollyBee – a Filipino fast food joint. However, there are at least three different JollyBees in Davao, so this took some time. At this point I realised I was just having one of those days and that I should just see the funny side. I would buy a Filipino SIM card tomorrow (something I should have done today) and get HSBC to call me on that and sort everything out.

In any case, taxis in the Philippines are mega cheap, so I wasn’t overly fussed about the extra time taken in finding the pub (it was, as always, in the last place we looked). It was a Sunday night, so Kaori’s Place was a bit quiet, but the live band made a welcome respite from the ubiquitous karaoke joints that Filipinos go Lady Gaga for. After a few beers, Arka and I said goodnight to our Filipino ladyfriends (I’m fairly certain they were actual ladies this time) and headed back to the ship, we’d be departing at 2300 for General Santos. No, that’s not a person, it’s a city.

Graham Hughes

Graham Hughes is a British adventurer, presenter, filmmaker and author. He is the only person to have travelled to every country in the world without flying. From 2014 to 2017 he lived off-grid on a private island that he won in a game show, before returning to the UK to campaign for a better future for the generations to come.

Leave a Reply