If I had planned better, I would have given each of my Safari posts a clever name beyond the very creative Safari I, Safari II, and Safari III. I say this now only because as I sit down to describe my final day of Safari (which was several days ago now), I am hit with this incredible desire to title this post In Search Of House Hippos. However, that wouldn’t be consistent with the theme (as boring as it is) so I’ve opted to just stick with it.
Our last day of Safari began a little later than the last, although earlier than it needed to as I misunderstood when we were to start, and as such set the alarm 30 minutes early. Sorry Safari gang, I apparently don’t do time very well.
Anyway, after a quick drive close to the water’s edge we boarded our craft and set out on adventure along the Shire river. The sky was somewhat grey, but this didn’t change the fact that it was a beautiful morning with very little wind, and just the right temperature. Several women dotted the shore in brightly coloured garments. A few fished while the others seemed responsible for cleaning whatever was caught. Several fishers sat comfortably in one person boats that I assume were carved from the branches or trunk of some local tree.
I peered over the edge of our boat in an attempt to spot some fish or perhaps a lumbering underwater hippo, or maybe even a sneaky crocodile looking for a quick bite. Sadly I couldn’t see deeper than the surface. Although the water was very calm, it was quite turbid. If a crocodile was looking to jump up and snatch me in its jaws, I wouldn’t know until it was too late. For the record, this thought did nothing to stop me peering over the edge.
It wasn’t long before we found ourselves face to face with a group of hippos. I was struck by their size. They snorted and yawned big hippo yawns, seemingly unimpressed with us. As we drew closer a few seemed to move slightly away, but to be honest we were outnumbered and out-powered and I think the hippos knew it. While the bulk ignored us, a few kept watch likely because there were a few baby hippos in the group.
We carried on, spotting numerous birds – herons and kingfishers and cranes. We passed more hippos, and eventually saw our first crocodile sunning lazily on the shore. Our first crocodile was soon upstaged by our second and third and fourth. They weren’t each bigger than the last, but they were huge – far bigger than I was expecting, although I’m not quite sure what I was expecting. Their bodies seemed to be all muscle, and from what I could tell almost as wide as they were long. They seemed unimpressed by our interrupting their leisure time in the sun, promptly making for the water as soon as they noted our intrusion. Once in the water we were able to fully appreciate their size – at least for the few seconds before they inevitably submerged. Again I tried unsuccessfully to peer through the murky water in a sad attempt to watch them swim by (although from their point of view I was probably doing nothing more than offering myself up as a tasty snack).
The morning carried on much like this. More hippos and birds and crocodiles came and went from our view. We were greeted on the shore by several strutting warthogs, and some very statuesque waterbucks, and at some point were told that a herd of elephants could be seen in the distance. While they were too far away for me to see them, the rest of my Safari team – Jon, Justeen, Sarina, and Dylan – were able to. In the distance various mountaintops came into view while others went into hiding. It was an incredibly peaceful and relaxing way to spend the morning.
As I stepped off the boat at the end of our Safari, I had one of those is this real life moments. Over the span of a few days I was able to witness the beauty and majesty (and oftentimes pooping) of some of the most incredible animals on the planet in their natural environment. No cages, no electric fences or glass barriers to separate me from them. Just me, and them, and nature. I can’t begin to explain how grateful I am that I got to experience this.