Crocodile alert for canoeists

PEOPLE taking part in the Hansa Powerade Dusi have been warned to be on the lookout for a crocodile on the loose.

The annual event takes place in KwaZulu-Natal's Umgeni River.

The reptile was spotted just above Durban's Blue Lagoon at the weekend.

A group of paddlers from Kingfisher Canoe Club saw the reptile on Sunday afternoon sunning itself on the banks of the river.

Dusi event spokesperson Ray de Vries said other reports had also been received from numerous paddlers over the last two to three months.

It was also seen four weeks ago by a farmer a few hundred metres up river near the N2 highway, who reportedly claimed the reptile had tried to attack him.

A veteran paddler, Willem Deyzel, of Morningside, spotted the crocodile on Sunday while he and other canoeists were practising for the coming Dusi race near Connaught Bridge.

He said the reptile, which was about two metres long, had been there for quite some time as many other paddlers had seen it.

Deyzel said he was amazed that when they approached the crocodile in their canoes "it just casually padded into the water until just its eyes were showing".

"I have seen many crocodiles in my life and this one seems to be quite old.

"Its snout is knobbly and not as smooth as the younger ones."

De Vries said there had been a number of sightings of the crocodile further up the river but there were few photos to back up the claims.

"We request all paddlers to leave the reptile alone if they come across it and then to report it to us on and we will report it to the authorities who will hopefully catch it before the event takes place in 30 days time."

The Dusi is the biggest canoe marathon in the world and its organisers report that more than 1500 entries have already been received with late entries open until the day before the race.

Nearly 1800 paddlers are expected to enter the race which takes place on January 21, 22 and 23 from Pietermaritzburg to Durban.

It has two overnight stops, the first at Dusi Bridge below Cato Ridge and the second at the Msinsi resort at Inanda dam.

The race finishes at the Blue Lagoon.