As the banks of the Mara river are amongst the most desirable locations for safari camps, we often find ourselves sharing our little slice of heaven with the local hippopotamus families.
They make for entertaining neighbours, huffing and honking their way through the days and nights; fighting, biting and battling to be Lord of the Springs; providing an ideal fishing platform for the local herons; bringing their babies to see the weird humans in the big green tents; and hauling themselves out to sunbathe on the rocks – a nudist beach for the very generously proportioned.
But in spite of their bulk, hippos are surprisingly athletic. Each night they cover miles, often toiling all the way up the escarpment behind Ngare (which is a good workout even for us!) just to reach the freshest, greenest grass shoots on the plateau.
This tendency to wander, along with a naturally grumpy disposition, also means our hippos are neighbours to be respected. We are always particularly wary around dusk and dawn as they leave and return to the river after their nightly exploits. Always stay close to our brave Askari as they guide you safely home to your tent each night, because more unwary people in Africa are injured by hippos than any other creature.
I may be in a minority, but I find our hippos pretty cute, and I’m sure a few days in their neighbourhood – especially Tent 4 at Ngare – will lead you to a new appreciation of them too. One lovely guest, Deb Polay from the States, adored them so much she requested a photography drive dedicated solely to hippos – a first for me. Her affection for them, and fascination with their ongoing dramas, gave me new insights into our hippo neighbours and now I’m definitely a fan too – thanks Deb!