Tag Archive | hippo

Hippo Serenade

It’s our last day of self-drive so we head out early. We decide to move in a more southerly direction, not certain what we will see. We are spotting zebra and elephants. Yes, elephants are difficult to spot. Despite their size, their grey color causes them to melt into the background behind even the smallest bush. You also have to be attuned to their slower stroll. Like giraffes, they can move fast if needed, but otherwise they seem to move with the landscape rather than through the landscape. It’s a rhythm unlike the many antelopes and zebras, especially the twitchy impalas.

Rattling slowly through the landscape, we don’t expect to surprise too many animals – they are more accustomed to vehicles in this park. But, we get delightfully surprised because we are hoping, but not expecting, for some great experiences. We round one corner to come upon a giraffe family, alert but not scared off by our appearance. We stopped and turned off the engine. To our delight, they went about their giraffe business, unperturbed by our cameras. They moved on, we moved on. More animals, fabulous birds, spectacular baobab trees. We haven’t spotted a carnivore since McBrides’ camp, even though the park is known for leopards. We look for the “lump” of a snoozing leopard on every likely sausage tree branch we pass, but we suspect they nap further away from the road.

We head back to camp for our last one-pot campground meal. While enjoying the cool breeze after sunset, we watch one very big hippo get out of the water on our side of the river, and start heading across the sand to a pool further upstream. He wags his short little tail while defecating, fanning hippo droppings far and wide. Interesting way to mark territory. A little while later, as the darkness settled in, we heard a hippo sing. No really, he was doing scales. We suspect it might have been the same fella that spread his dung – he was quite deliberate about his trip to the other pool so we suspect he may have been courting the lady hippos up the way. He easily ranged a good 3 octaves in his grunting wah wah wah’s, entertaining the entire campground.

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.