May 2022




On a beautiful May afternoon I met with my guest, ready to head out on drive from Castleton Lodge. While having pre-drive snacks a very large herd of elephants approached the dam in front of the lodge, which really was exciting. Soon after snacks we set off for a game drive wanting to follow up on a cheetah that had been seen in the area previously.

Unfortunately we could not find her and were a bit disappointed. But, I will be making huge mistake if I forget to remind you that Mother Nature is unpredictable! After the disappointment of having not found the spotted speedster we came across a male hippopotamus lying down in a very shallow pan. We spent the rest of the afternoon having real quality time watching that male hippo, and taking pictures of it with the sunset in the background.

During the course of that late afternoon we discussed the many interesting facts about hippos. These are some of those:

  • Hippopotamus amphibious, as the scientific name suggests (amphibius), are able to live both on land and in water.
  • A fully grown male hippo weighs, on average, 1.5 tonnes, and female weighs a little less at around 1.3 tonnes. They are selective grazers and use their broad muscular lips to pluck short grass, which they mow repeatedly. Typically hippos come out of the water at night to feed, and they follow well used paths.
  • Generally they do not stray further than 1 to 2 km from water, returning to it before sunrise.
  • Hippos practice a harem system where bulls occupy well-defended territories that contain nursery herds of females and their young.
  • The fact that hippo defecate near the water has an important ecological benefit, they are adding nutrients to the system which can then be utilized by members of the food chain, like fish etc.
  • Hippos walk on the bottom of the river or dams, and do not swim. They can remain submerged for up to 6 minutes.
  • Hippos run to the water if threatened. They are clumsy on land and cannot jump or navigate over obstacles.

By Johan Ndlovu
Field Guide