Last week I had the chance to head to the Serengeti for some stories I’m working on for two different publications. I’ll definitely share quite a few other stories and photos from my trip, but I wanted to share this very special one first because it was just such a magnificent thing to see!
In the central area of the Serengeti National Park, there is rudimentary signage and a pretty worn dirt road that indicates a pathway to the ‘Serengeti Hippo Pool’. A day before, we’d been in the Manyara National Park and had seen something similar and all I saw of a hippo was what’s going on below (look closely, I had to), so I wasn’t expecting much to be honest.
Pulling up to the Hippo Pool, there was a small picnic spot and an ablution block, and no sign of the hippos. Our game ranger, Ayoub, said we better eat our picnic lunch first, because the smell of the hippos will put us off. Taking his word for it, and still wondering how the one expected hippo was going to put me off my lunch, I obliged and ate my sandwich as I was told.
When we finally were ready to walk across the parking lot to the viewing point, I started to understand what Ayoub was talking about. The smell was something similar to that of a farmyard, not as bad as a dirty pigsty but probably similar to a cowshed, yes I can tell the difference. As we approached the viewing deck, it looked like we were looking down into a river filled with shiny boulders. The dawning realisation that I was looking at what was estimated to be 150 hippos squashed into a space smaller than my apartment, was pretty epic.
In a childish moment, I started to giggle at how all of the hippos seemed to be conducting some kind of cacophonic performance using flatulence as their instrument. The water was muddy and green and almost seemed like it was going to hit boiling point. Ayoub started to explain, in the most matter-of-fact manner, that in actual fact it was the river carp jumping between these massive mammals that was to account for the bubbles (he added afterwards that they were eating the hippo poo so I wasn’t far off). I even took a video:
It was the heat of the day, about 37 degrees in the shade while the Tsetse flies try to eat your face, so these guys weren’t doing much other than roll over occasionally and have yawn every now and again.
All of a sudden though, one massive hippo got really upset with another. All I can imagine is that hippo politics must be quite difficult, so I can’t pinpoint why they did this. I mean, you’ve got to basically sleep in each others poo and be polite and not squash anybody’s baby and enjoy life too. So… it must’ve been a hectic hippo disagreement that ensued here.
The big guy started chasing a slightly smaller hippo and trying to bite him. This wasn’t exactly easy because he had about seven hippos in the way. Everybody started snorting, there was general gnashing of teeth and the bigger hippo tried to chase the other through the throng. From outside the water, it looked hilarious. I mean, these guys are trying to get over other hippos, who aren’t impressed naturally, and act all aggressive and bite one another. Plus all this is doing is churning up the poo water, creating a tasty foam and making sure the smell is just that much more obvious.
Apparently not many people visit the pool because it’s off one of the main routes, there isn’t much nearby and most people are just on a rush to get to their camps. We were literally the only people there! It was one of the most incredible game viewings I’ve ever had in my life and I really could’ve sat there all afternoon. I leave you with this sweet, little baby hippo having a cuddle with mom…
My trip to Tanzania was courtesy of Fastjet and Asilia Africa. As with all my posts, editorial control remains with me (because nobody would throw poo in so casually).