Hippo Kingdom

Part of the attraction of stopping at Kaingu was the opportunity to spend a few days on the river. But, we had to adjust our expectations since we are not accustomed to the hazards lurking under the surface of African rivers. Tossing yourself into the water for a refreshing swim on a hot day is just not an option. After our midday siesta, we headed out with Egbert and Boyd, the camp’s guide, on the water for a sunset cruise.

In the low water, many of the rocks along this stretch of the Kafue River are exposed, adding natural sculpture to the scenery. But, not all the bumps above the water were rocks. We skirted the deeper pools and open areas: the kingdom of the hippos. Big and bossy, hippos will flip your boat if they feel threatened in the water, and they will trample you in a stampede to the water if they feel threatened on land. As ungainly as they seem, they should not be misjudged.

We cruised upstream past the scrimmage line of hippos with a large enough outboard motor to outrun any surly ones. We enjoyed traditional sundowner fare, then headed back downstream to the camp. Unable to avoid every rock, the cage around the propeller was bent, disabling the motor. We paddled and poled our way to the dock, staying out of the deeper parts of the river, watching for croc eyes.

Safely landed at the dock, we met the camp chef, Elizabeth, who delivered a spectacular meal, complete with a caramel dessert: Steve’s favorite. We went to sleep to the sound of hippo grunts and snorts, hoping they would be under our deck and strolling past our chalet.

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