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Watching Active Hippos

Hippos may seem lazy when lying in a muddy, stinky pools, but quickly they can burst into loud fighting for territory and females. You can witness the spectacle during the dry season


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Anyone who has never seen hippos might think they are fat, grey, and harmless animals. Commonly seen during safaris lying quietly in the water, they are thought to be friendly and lazy. But they are the most aggressive creatures in Africa. You'd be amazed, but they really kill more people than any other animal in Africa.

These huge semi-aquatic mammals, weighing up to three tonnes, can be fast reaching speeds up to 30km/h. Being unpredictable, they are considered as one of the most dangerous. They can easily smash you with all that huge running power.

Hippos also make loud sounds, like snorting and fighting, while in the water. This is especially true when it is the end of the dry season, and there is not enough space for everyone. They fight a lot, biting one another and bumping into others. When you watch the hippos in pools, it seems like a natural colosseum.

The most important aspects of a hippo’s life—mating and giving birth—takes place in the water. Male hippos can have up to 10 females and the small pool they have chosen is considered as their property. Another male just cannot enter this territory. Even crocodiles keep their distance. When night comes, hippos start grazing in the darkness, looking for food. Such walks can take them as far as 10 km. Thus they usually mark their route to find the way back to the water.

When the dry season comes, hippos have to share water pools with around a hundred others of their kind. They look like huge grey stones lying in the water with only their backs or nostrils up. The best place to see these giants is Katavi National Park. It is a huge wetland with Katuma River and a few seasonal lakes. This place is home to large groups of hippos. At the end of the dry season, almost 200 hippos can be found in one place. As too many males are together, fighting is almost certain. Serengeti is one more good spot to see these animals in its several rivers, each of which hosts hundreds of hippos.

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