The Lake of Crocodiles is located in northern Madagascar between the cities of Antsiranana (Diego Suarez) and Ambilobe. The next town west of the lake is called Anivorana North, is accessible via the RN6 and belongs to the Antsiranana region. The lake itself is actually called Antagnavo, is of volcanic origin and is known for its countless crocodiles (Crocodilus niloticus madagascariensis), some of which are becoming enormous.
Around the lake and its inhabitants there is a dark legend that everyone in the area knows well: long ago an old man came to the small village Antagnavo. After a long walk he was thirsty and asked the inhabitants of the valley for some water. But people closed their windows and doors, nobody wanted to give anything to the stranger. Only one woman carrying a baby in her arms gave the old man something to drink. He drank the water and then said, “When your youngest child starts crying tonight, take your family and your belongings and leave the village.” Then he disappeared. At night it began to rain, and indeed the youngest child of the woman cried. Following the advice of the old man, the woman took her belongings and her children and left the village. The rain became stronger and stronger, and the small family sought refuge on a hill. When they woke up in the morning, there was a lake on the spot where the village had stood the day before, and the inhabitants had turned into crocodiles. The old man had been a sorcerer, and had taken revenge on the villagers by giving them the water they had refused him. It is said that the crocodiles of the lake still have some of the jewelry on their arms and around their necks that they wore as humans during their transformation.
The crocodiles of the lake have been fady (taboo, sacred) since then and may not be disturbed or hunted. It is said that one day a white stranger broke this fady and killed the biggest crocodile, the former village elder Jaomarainga. On the way back to Antsiranana the stranger died in a mysterious accident. A silver bracelet was found at the foot of the dead crocodile.
Meanwhile the weekly feeding of the holy crocodiles has become an attraction. In a small office at the market place of Anivorana Nord there is an entrance fee to pay, then people follow you – always on Saturdays – to the lake about four kilometres away. With singing and loud clapping the (long overweight) crocodiles are lured to the shore and fed with zebu meat. In honour of the ancestors, heads of sacrificed zebus are also on a pole in this sacred place. Besides curious travellers, many Sakalava come here to ask for protection, happiness, health or the fulfillment of certain wishes from their ancestors.