Traveller tales: A close encounter with hippos in Namibia
Hippos in Namibia
24 Oct 2022
27 Oct 2022
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In September 2022, Dave headed off on a multi-destination adventure around Zambia, Namibia and Botswana. Whilst in Namibia, Dave had an extraordinary encounter with some hippos whilst he was having a relaxing swim. He shares all, below:
Hippos, they never read the script!
"A 21-day adventure around Namibia and Botswana organised by Far and Wild with Sunway Safaris and we had reached day 3.
After a long drive through the Bwabwata National Park, our group of 10 arrived at the wonderful Ngepi lodge on the banks of the Okavango River. After checking into our treehouse (yes that does say treehouse!) a small group of us decided we had to brave the “hippo cage” as we called it, a 10m square floating mesh swimming pool in the river itself connected to the riverbank by a rickety wooden bridge and designed to allow swimming in the river without any “interference” from the resident hippos and crocs – or so we thought!
A small group of hippos were lounging over the other side of the river probably 40m away and nobody thought much of it even as a solitary large male approached. Then the river exploded!
The resident bull took great exception to his rival and something straight from an Attenborough documentary unfolded in front of us as the males launched into a brutal fight.
As the rest of the residents of the lodge realised what was happening, they began to line the riverbank, but the six of us in the cage were far too engrossed to leave. Fortunately, I had taken my camera. 20 minutes and over 100 photos later the intruder began to tire, one of his huge incisor teeth clearly smashed and decided to beat a retreat. The big bull wasn’t finished however and took off after him clearly wanting to make sure he was well out of the area. As the water was deep at this point the two hippos would disappear for about 10 seconds, reappear for a breath then disappear again. After they had done this several times it slowly dawned on us that they were actually heading straight towards us!
Minor panic ensued as some people headed for the rickety bridge and the safety of the bank. I stayed put, my brain telling me they couldn’t go through the cage and that they would have to actually go under the bridge where everybody else was heading. Sure enough, 30 seconds later they crashed into several empty canoes just to our left before turning under the bridge and crashing into the bank again less than 3m away from where I was standing, so close my camera wouldn’t focus on them! At this point the victor clearly decided he had done enough and disappeared underwater back towards his harem, whilst the loser drifted slowly downstream nursing his not-insignificant injuries.
A few moments later our guide arrived over the bridge to check everybody was OK.
“Excitement like that is supposed to be at the end of the trip not day 3!” he exclaimed and then with a grin added “Hippos, they never read the script!”.
Typically weighing between 1,500kg to 1,800kg the hippo is the third largest mammal on the planet and one of the most dangerous animals on safari. They are semi-aquatic mammals and can hold their breath underwater for around 5 minutes. When completely submerged, their ears and nostrils fold shut to keep water out.
They mostly spend the daytime in the water, keeping their skin cool, venturing out in the evening to graze on grass. Hippos have adapted an ability to produce a red, oily liquid which acts as a natural sunblock to protect their skin. If food is scarce, hippos can store food in their stomachs and go up to three weeks without eating.
Hippos live in groups of 10-20 often called a pod with one dominant male.
If you're interested in arranging a safari, please call us on 01768 603 715 or enquire below.