We’re lucky at the camp to play host to one of the largest mammals in Africa, the hippopotamus. We often joke that the hippos are the equivalent of camp ghosts, they’re often heard, at night people imagine them brushing their tents (usually students who like to wind each other up), their tracks are seen around the camp but they themselves are seldom seen. Their presence seems more like a rumour than a fact.
And why is it that they are so seldom seen? One reason is they stay put in the lake during the day and only move out at night to graze. A band of papyrus lines the lakes shoreline making it difficult to see in to the open water and spot their half submerged faces. This is something our new forest platform and beach hide hope to overcome. From the platform you can see over some papyrus, making it possible to spot a passing hippo. The hide is located just a few metres from their favourite hang out spot, the water is shallow and we hope they will be happy to pass by, unaware of watching visitors safely concealed behind the papyrus walled hide. If we were to wander around at night with a torch then they would definitely be spotted, however night time hippo watching on foot is not really recommended, they are after all one of the bigggest killers in Africa.
Another reason for their secrecy is their conflict with humans. Around the lake there are many farmers growing vegetables of all descriptions. These fields are located right down on the lakes shore, making it possible for small water pumps to irrigate the fields. Often at night you can hear the distant banging of a jerry can and the occasional whoop of a farmer as he attempts to chase of the hippos and protect his crops.
Our camera trapping provides us with a lot of information on the hippos movements and population. Last week we captured photos of a pod leaving and returning to the lake after grazing. Four adults and one calf were identified. When we get the camps boat up and running, we’ll get a better idea of the population in the lower half of the lake, the different pods and their territories.
So a natural behaviour of nocturnal grazing and day time wallowing combined with the human conflict of the area makes for few hippo sightings. We’re hoping the hippos come to learn the camps 35 acres are a safe place for them to roam and graze, free from banging jerry cans and hostile humans, even if Nathan and Nshama give the odd grumble about them eating the cows’ grass,.