Africa Safari (Kenya) Pt.13
My first night in Masai Mara and I am startled awake by the bone jarring chatter of my own teeth. My bare chest and arms are shaking uncontrollably from constant shivers. It is 2 in the morning and I can’t figure out where the hell I am. Ok, maybe I am dreaming of sleeping in an open-sided tent in Kenya, while actually, I am back on my Antarctica adventure. No, that can’t be. I distinctly recall being completely exhausted and falling into bed with a sweaty brow and no covers. In fact, I threw an annoying rubber hot water bag out onto the floor as I crawled in. Apparently, I hadn’t taken enough stock in the “temperature will drop at night with 6000 feet elevation” speech I had heard earlier in the day. I will not forget it tomorrow evening.
We are heading to the river this morning. It is still dark and cold as I strap my beanbags to the roof rack of the Land Rover. Hopefully, we will catch a nocturnal grass grazing Hippopotamus returning to the safety of the water before they have all settled in for the day. They venture out many miles in pursuit of young grass shoots, but because of all the rains this year, the trips are shorter.
Even with our early start, it appears we have arrived too late.
Well, maybe not! Here comes someone who stayed at the dance after curfew. We are looking at about 4000lbs of “meaner than a junkyard dog.” Older bulls will bulk up to 6000 or even 7000lbs. They can run faster than a human being and don’t need any provocation to attack, killing more people in Africa every year than lions. Fortunately, this guy is on the opposite side of the river.
As we ford the river, the territorial bull keeps surveillance of our position. Typically, a dominate bull will control a section of the river about the length of 3 football fields. Although he will tolerate younger subservient bulls to remain in his domain, do not mess with his women!
Even though Hippos are not very social animals, females are very protective of their young.
But unfortunately, they don’t appear to be good drivers, or at least, their backing and parking skills seem challenged. Here at the Beachside Mall parking lot, premium locations are highly sought after.
“Push over Fatso, Nordstrom’s sale starts in five minutes.”
Another interesting fact: When Hippos defecate their tail spins like an airplane propellor sending debris in every which direction. I wonder if this led to sayings such as….
“ When the sh** hits the fan…. OR…… “ than the sh** flew”…. I don’t know, just wondering.
Enough of that madness, a little more mainstream information; Adult Hippos can open their jaws almost 180 degrees and smash it shut with so much force they can sever the body of a Nile Crocodile, their chief water protagonist. They have enormous ivory incisor and canine teeth, top and bottom, that just barely graze as the mouth opens and shuts sharpening them to a razor’s edge. Surprisingly, even though the Hippo is poached for its ivory and meat, the population remains fairly strong. Loss of habitat is a larger concern.
At dusk, after spending the day lounging in and around the water, the sleepy Hippos will awake themselves with huge yawns in preparation of another evening of grazing. Amazingly, they are not good swimmers spending much of their time walking on the bottom or sleeping underwater and surfacing every 3-5 minutes to breath.
Africa is not a Disney theme park. This juvenile managed a return to the river even with a rear foot torn off but did not survive the lion attack from the previous evening. With a 6 inch thick hide, a full grown healthy mean tempered Hippo would not likely even be challenged by a small pride of lions. In fact, the cantankerous male Hippo will even seek out solo lions to kill in preemptive strikes. It won’t take that long for the crocodiles to turn this situation into a feast.