We might as well catch another Hippopotamus mood while we are here on the Nile River in Murchison Falls National Park (or at least while I am going through photos from our visit). Hippos are indeed among the oddest looking mammals, with that huge sardonic smile, stuck-up nose, eyes that do not fit in their skulls…and with their ears tucked back in sockets. Odd indeed…but then we probably look just as funny to them. 🙂 Sony Rx10iv at 595mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Pixelmator Photo and Apple Photos. ISO 160 @ f4 @ 1/500th.
This is a more typical “action” shot of Hippocampus. The youngster here is yawning. A frequent behavior and often photographed as it is about as much action as you are likely to see in a bloat of hippos at mid-day. When an adult does it, with the full grown tusks, it is, of course, much more impressive. 🙂 Again, these hippos will send the daylight hours hiding from the sun in the shallows, kneeling on the bottom to keep as much of their skin underwater as possible, and taking frequent dips to completely submerge. This bloat (or school, or pod) was along the shores of the Victoria Nile between its junction with the Albert and Murchison Falls in Murchison Falls National Park…taken from the tour boat to the base of the falls. Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Pixelmator Photo and Apple Photos. ISO 160 @ f4 @ 1/500th.
Hippopotamuses live, you might think, fairly placid lives…grazing during the hours of darkness, sometimes wandering miles from water, and spending the days kneeling in the shallows of lakes and larger rivers to protect their somewhat delicate hides from the equatorial sun. Plaid, except when they aren’t! This is mock battle between two (probably young) males at the edge of one of the big bloats of hippos that we saw from the tour boat on the Nile below Murchison Falls, in Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda. “Bloat”, “crash”, “school”, or “pod”…all are used to describe a group of hippos. Our guide on the boat called them schools…but bloat is, according to internet sources, the more common and perhaps more correct term. I have heard it said that more people are killed by hippos each year, than by all of the big five taken together. Anywhere between a hippo and the water is a very dangerous place to be. You definitely do not want to be bitten by a hippo, as it only takes one bite. Still, the impression of a placid life is probably correct, 90% of the time. These two quickly settled back into the water once whatever point needed making was made to their satisfaction. Sony Rx10iv at 164mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed (cropped and enlarged) in Pixelmator Photo and Apple Photos. ISO 100 @ f4 @ 1/800th.
As I have said before, the only safe way to get close to a Hippopotamus is in a boat…and the most dramatic views are from a small boat, where you are close to the waterline. On our boat tour of the Kasinga Channel between Lake George and Lake Edward in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda, we had a smallish launch, maybe 14 foot, and were close to the waterline indeed, and eye to eye with the Hippos we encountered. The Hippos in the channel are used to people in boats, some smaller even than ours, and, though certainly aware of us, went about their business pretty much undisturbed. This shot is at 600mm equivalent. Sony Rx10iv in Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.
I somewhat maligned the Hippopotamus yesterday when I included it among Africa’s Big Five…the five animals that have no fear of a man on foot, and therefore are considered “dangerous game”. The fifth member of that group is actually the Cape Buffalo. However, as was pointed out to us several times during our stay, the Hippo kills more people in South Africa every year than any of the actual members of the Big Five. They are not aggressive at all, but you do not want to be caught between a Hippo and the water when Hippos are on the move, or between a Hippo mother and her calf at any time.
This image represents a somewhat rare sighting. Hippos have very sensitive skin, and can not stand long exposure to the direct sun, which is why they spend the day submerged in water, and only graze at night. Conditions in Kruger are so bad that this Hippo was out in full daylight, looking for food. Sadly the remaining grasses of Kruger after their long drought can not support the numbers of Hippos in the park. Dead Hippos are becoming a common sight in Kruger as they are dying of starvation at up 30 per week. The day I left South Africa they made the heartbreaking decision to cull 300 Hippos in Kruger and distribute the meat to surrounding villages. This image brings mixed feelings, to say the least.
Sony RX10iii at 485mm equivalent field of view. 1/250th @ ISO 250 @ f4. Processed in Lightroom.
The few remaining watering holes at Kruger National Park in South Africa make for strange associations: in this case a Crocodile, a Hippopotamus, and three Hinged Terripins. None of these animals are much threat to the others. The Crocodile might be tempted by a Hippo calf, but it would be very unlikely to get by the fiercely protective mother, and no Croc messes with a full grown Hippo. I suppose the Croc might also try for the Terripins but I am sure their heavy shell is a deterrent. The Croc is sunning itself, using the membranes in its mouth to regulate its body temperature. The Hippo is resting in hopes (probably misplaced during this drought) of finding grass to feed on during the cool hours of the night. Hippo hide is very sensitive to the sun and they have to keep pretty much submerged all day. The Terripins appear to be both sunning and resting, taking advantage of the elevation and relative safety of the Hippo’s broad back.
Sony RX10iii at 600mm equivalent field of view. 1/800th @ ISO 100 @ f4. Processed and cropped to about 1200mm apparent field of view in Lightroom.
“If your eye is generous, your whole being is full of light.” Jesus
I am more or less back from nearly a month of intensive travel, with spotty to non-existent wifi, and very little unscheduled time. I am actually in Columbus Ohio for the Great American Birding Expo, but that is relatively close to home, with excellent hotel wifi, and some time this morning to properly reflect on the Sunday. I am thankful for the time this morning, but I am also thankful for the travel. I spent a week in Panama, and 11 days in South Africa, and my head and my heart is full of new and memorable sights and experiences. This shot is from a sunset drive at a private, fenced, Game Reserve in South Africa. Tshakudu Game Reserve specializes in Rhinoceros, but they have all of the “big five” game animals on their extensive property. The small herd of Hippos was basking in one of few ponds that still have water at the height of the severe drought that has the Greater Kruger region in its grip. The water is actually shallow enough so the Hippos are kneeling on the bottom of the pond. This is a classic Africa shot, with the Hippo roaring in the sunset.
I feel incredibly blessed to have stood on the dam in Tshakudu to witness this. And incredibly is just the right word. I am very close to not being able to believe it. Africa has been a dream of mine since childhood, and, now, just after my 69th birthday, it has come true…and it was everything I had dreamed it would be. I went into the trip determined to be as generous as I possibly could be…open-hearted and open eyed as the blessing deserves. I failed, of course, but each day I woke with thanksgiving and did my best to enjoy what might well be a once in a lifetime experience. Just to be there…just to see…just to record…just to share. Overwhelming! God, please grant me generosity of spirit to match the gift. Happy Sunday!