Nothing says “you’re not in Canada anymore” quite like an afternoon in the company of 60 000 crocodiles. And so, in the spirit of fearless Thailand travels, I embarked upon a daytrip to Samut Prakarn. Here the reptiles range from newborn to world record-holders, all housed together in the world’s largest crocodile farm.
While organized trips to the Samut Prakarn Crocodile Farm can be purchased through any Bangkok-based travel agency, the independent spirit can make the trek with ease. From Bangkok, the orange 511 bus from Sukhumvit Road will take you into Samut Prakarn, though be warned that commuter traffic can make this ride a lengthy one. From the city centre, the famous farm is a mere 10-minute tuk-tuk ride away.
After paying your 300 baht admission, your first glance of crocodile will be in steak, purse, or shoe form. The main entrance to the farm houses an expansive gift shop of croc meat and leatherware, a darkly funny touch. Once inside, crocodile-enthusiasts have a maze of options. Animal-lovers could easily occupy a whole day here. In addition to a massive crocodile population, this farm has a large zoo and elephant shows, located oddly close to the local shooting range.
There are 60 000 crocodiles lurking inside, including the largest in captivity, the appropriately-named Yai (“large” in Thai), measuring 6 metres in length and weighing a record-breaking 1,114.27 kg (2,465 lb).
While guided tours dish out the reptile facts, visitors are welcome to walk freely around the crocodile tanks. There are rows of cement pens housing baby crocodiles en masse. A more daring crocodile fan can cross the rickety wooden boardwalks over giant tanks, where hundreds of adult crocodiles lurk on the land and water, moving with the eerie stealthiness that makes them so fascinating and also terrifying. For a newcomer to the reptile world, there is something truly menacing in the slow silence of the reptiles. A highlight of the crocodile experience occurs on these boardwalks, where 20 baht will buy a dead chicken that can be thrown into the tank. The result is a heart-racing show of quick lunges, snapping jaws, and deep growls as the meat gets devoured. Graphic, yes. But exciting? Absolutely!
The farm boasts two amphitheatres, each housing the hourly crocodile handling or elephant acrobatic shows. While both spectacles are light and family-friendly, the gimmicky croc show falls short of the “crocodile wrestling” promised on the pamphlets. The elephant acrobatics will amuse all ages in a show where elephants paint pictures with their trunks, and are trained to collect money from audience participants.
Located close to the exit, the farm’s “handicapped crocodile wing” is not to be missed. Like a carnival sideshow, it boasts crocodiles both rare and deformed. Crocodiles that are albino, tiger-patterned, 6-legged, fork-tailed and more are kept in smaller tanks so visitors can easily spot their unusual markings and traits
Since it was founded in 1950, the farm has expanded into a tourist multiplex with a zoo, dinosaur museum, countless foodstalls, and even go-karting, and have received mixed reviews from visitors. Still, the farm is a very worthwhile experience for reptile enthusiasts and curious sightseers alike. An afternoon spent watching, feeding, and fearing the crocodiles is an unforgettable one.
Anne Merritt is Canadian and has an English Literature degree. She has worked as a journalist for a university newspaper. She is currently living in Ayutthaya as an ESL teacher and is sharing her experience of Thailand with KhaoSanRoad.com.