If the Medal of Honor was awarded for bravery in the tourism industry, crocodile guide ‘Guido’ in Costa Rica would surely be in the running for one.
His displays of derring-do come during his tourist boat trips along the Tarcoles River – when he jumps into the water to hand-feed wild crocodiles measuring up to 17ft (5.1m) in length (with chicken from Walmart). Whatever he’s being paid, it’s likely not enough.
Guido’s crocodilian close encounters have been captured in stunning images and video footage by photographer Josh Edelson, who recently took one of Guido’s trips while on holiday in Costa Rica with his wife. Josh said: ‘I have no idea what [Guido’s] official credentials are, or if he even has any, but he definitely knows how to stay alive out there.’
Boat driver Guido lures a crocodile named Justin Bieber with a piece of raw meat during a crocodile tour this June along the Tarcoles River
Guido lures crocodiles named Angelina Jolie and Osama Bin Laden to the shore. Photographer Josh Edelson said: ‘I have no idea what [Guido’s] official credentials are, or if he even has any, but he definitely knows how to stay alive out there’
Tourists are warned not to get out and join Guido – ‘unless you want to be eaten’
Josh said that he originally planned to snap the Tarcoles River crocodiles near the Tarcoles Bridge using his drone, as it’s a known hotspot for croc-spotting.
However, he was visiting during the wet season when numbers around the bridge are lower, so he researched where to find them and ‘saw these crazy photos of a guy feeding the crocodiles online’.
It turned out to be the tour Guido helps to run with his colleague Jose.
Josh said: ‘It looked absolutely nuts, so I knew I wanted to go photograph that and see them. ‘
Josh said his fellow tourists in the boat were “ooing” and “ahhing” while watching the feeding feats demonstrated by Guido, seen here luring a crocodile known as Bruce Jenner to the shore
Guide lunges forwards as Guido deftly avoids being on the menu
Little did he know, he was in for a truly heart-stopping experience.
Once in the vicinity of the crocodiles (American crocodiles, Crocodylus acutus), Guido, the boat driver, hops out while Jose ‘throws cheesy dad jokes and puns while educating tourists about the animals’.
Those in the boat are warned not to get out and join Guido – ‘unless you want to be eaten’.
Josh continued: ‘There was this moment where three crocs all converged on Guido at the same time for the piece of meat he was dangling and he had to draw one further ahead of the other to isolate him.
Did Josh ever feel in danger? No, at least, not when he was keeping his hands safely inside the boat
‘He dropped a piece of meat in his mouth, then went back to the other one and reached for some meat he dropped on the ground and sort of hesitantly and quickly grabbed it before he could get bitten.
‘It was about a foot in front of the croc. I think you’d have to be extremely focused on what’s happening around you at all times to not get eaten. If he wasn’t paying attention he totally could get chomped.’
How did the other travellers on the boat react?
Josh, who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area of California, said: ‘People were definitely “ooing” and “ahhing” at the shock of it. These creatures are beautiful and deadly and this guy is out there for us. I almost felt guilty.
Guido could not afford a single lapse in concentration while around the huge crocodiles
Pictured here is a crocodile called Tornado, coming in for a hunk of Walmart chicken
A wary heron watches on as a sizeable crocodile named Walter White, after the Breaking Bad character, targets Guido’s chicken hors d’oeuvre
‘There was this one moment where two crocs came alongside the boat and had a bit of a scuffle. One of them launched up in the air above the side of the boat and his tail flicked a bunch of water on everyone on the boat and scared the s**t out of this one woman. She had her hand on her heart and was trying to catch her breath as nobody knew that was coming.’
And did Josh ever feel in danger? No, he said. At least, not when he was keeping his hands safely inside the boat.
He described one moment when single-minded pursuit of great imagery put them in potential peril.
He explained: ‘I was trying to get photos that were a little more artistic, so I was holding my camera over the edge of the boat right above water level a lot. I kept looking at the water to make sure I didn’t see any crocs there, but the water is so murky you can’t see much.
‘There was one moment where I was taking photos of Guido feeding one crocodile, and then I heard the person next to me gasp and say “oh my god he’s right there”. And I looked down and he was right below my camera, a foot below my hands.
Justin Bieber opens wide for his chicken lunch, courtesy of one of the bravest tour guides in the world
Crocodile Angelina Jolie bumps up against the tourist boat during Josh’s heart-stopping tour
Josh said that while there’s no denying that what Guido does is risky, he does two tours per day and knows the crocs well. This crocodile is called Paris Hilton
Tornado looks distinctly menacing as he swims towards the tourist boat
‘I quickly pulled my hands back in the boat and took a photo directly on top of him. Nothing happened, but that was scary. That croc totally could have taken a bite out of me if he wanted to.’
Josh said that while there’s no denying that what Guido does is risky, he does two tours per day and knows the crocs well.
In fact, many of the beasts have been named, generally after famous people. There’s Paris Hilton, Angelina Jolie, Justin Bieber and Nicole Richie.
The 17ft 70-year-old alpha male they call Osama Bin Laden.
Some of the crocodiles on the Tarcoles River don’t get on too well
Crocodile Walter White is the centre of attention here, with the tourists snapping him as he basks on an embankment
Josh said: ‘During the short lulls where we could just look at them up-close, I found [the crocodiles] incredibly beautiful. The colours and patterns on their skin was amazing’
Josh, 42, came away from the trip with memories of a lifetime, and not just as a result of witnessing Guido’s perilous antics.
He added: ‘During the short lulls where we could just look at them up-close, I found them incredibly beautiful. The colours and patterns on their skin was amazing.’
For more on the tour visit crocodilerivertour.com.