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Watching hippos in a pool

Updated: Sep 12, 2019

When I was working in Tanzania as a tour leader, people often asked me if it doesn’t become boring, all these safaris with the wildlife again and again and again. I was always surprised! How could the plains of the Serengeti dotted with wildebeests ever bore me? How could I get bored watching a baby elephant running through the herd, while the rest of the herd seemingly effortless avoid stepping on her.

How could I get bored watching lion cubs trying to get one of the packs to play with them? Or watching a pack of my favorite animal, the African Wild Dog, going of hunting, I mean I could never ever imagine getting bored of that. Okay really if you would force me to tell what bores me, then maybe the sleeping hippos in a pool, but just when that starts to bore me, you can be quite sure something will happen or another animal will show up.

I do remember on a safari one day we were having our lunch somewhere near the Grumeti river, watching lazy hippos (okay probably not nice to say so considering that they graze the whole night) in the river. I was already wondering where the crocs had gone, as Grumeti river usually has a good chance of seeing crocs. I mean those impalas on the riverbed were so close that it might have made a nice lunch for a croc. So really when I just started to get bored with this picture there was all of a sudden huge commotion among the impalas, it took me a moment to figure out what happened, it is the tail that we saw disappearing in the tree which made me realise that we just saw a leopard grabbing an impala....

There is a hippo pool in the Serengeti along the “main” road from Nabi to Seronera. Having passed it during several safaris, it might rank quite high in the “boring list”, that was until the day we were standing there and watching the hippos, unfortunately the wind was in the wrong way so the smell was not so nice either. Knowing that we would have several more chances of seeing hippos (as they sleep in pools during the day it is quite hard to miss that) I decided that it is probably better we move on. Just when I was explaining my clients that we would see hippos again, with a better wind, one of my clients requested just a minute to take a picture of a pied kingfisher which had just landed in a nearby tree. Luckily he did! Because while he was taking pictures of the kingfisher a troop of baboons came marching in to take a drink at the other side of the pool. Not a big troop, just a few animals. Being bored with the hippos I just sat there counting them, one two three four five baboons, no wait four baboons! Where that crocodile had come from nobody knows, least of all the totally freaked out baboons who desperately climbed into a tree with nothing to be seen of one of them (crocs drag their prey underwater to kill it).

So actually if someone asks me whether all that wildlife never bores me, no never, not even the sleeping hippos in the pool!

Oh and let me inform you about this:

1. Yes a hippo on land is easily annoyed, hippos on land during the day are the worse ever (but it did enable us to test if it is true they are very fast)

2. Yes a hippo can run about 40 km per hour (the one chasing us was doing about 43 according to the speedometer on our car)

3. Yes a hippo can hold a grudge (like patrolling for an hour in front of the public toilets on the camp site where you took shelter trying to avoid the hippo mentioned in point 1)

4. Yes they are incredible animals, I mean with those short legs and that huge body who would believe they can be that fast!

5. As I was once told by a local Maasai guide: They are 100% vegetarians, so don’t worry, they don’t eat you, they just kill you.

6. If all of the above gave you a not-so- comfortable feeling, don’t worry the last time we tried and tested hippos still don’t manage to open car doors, tent zips or room doors.

And as long as you don’t “bump” into them they leave you doing your thing! As long as you leave them doing their thing!


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