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25 Aug 2014 | By Sun International

| Photo by Paul Maritz

The Hippos of the Zambezi

Although they have cute pink ears and stout legs that cannot jump, make no mistake, hippos are the most dangerous animals in Africa. Their love of water earned them the ancient Greek name “river horse” and with an average 16 hours in the water each day, their name is certainly appropriate.

Once found throughout Africa, hippos are now found across eastern, central and southern sub-Saharan Africa, with large herds of over 60 hippos often spotted in Zambia’s Zambezi River. With such an abundance of these magnificent creature, a holiday in Zambia is simply incomplete without a special encounter with these beautiful, water-loving herbivores. With a variety of river, elephant-back and canoe safaris available for guests of the Royal Livingstone Hotel and Zambezi Sun, you can experience the majesty of this large and unpredictable mammal from whatever vantage point suits you. Goofy-looking, mysterious and full of personality, after getting up close and personal with this unique creature you are sure to champion for their inclusion in the newly renamed Big 6!

Safety tips to remember:

  • Despite their bulky barrel-like appearance, hippos are surprisingly fast on land, reaching speeds of 30km/h. However, there’s little chance of being charged at if you don’t appear to be blocking the hippos path to water.
  • If you see a hippo yawning, don’t be fooled, it doesn’t need to catch some Zs. Hippos appear to yawn as a show of dominance, signalling to you and other intruders: “Stay away!”

With all this talk of danger and aggression you might be inclined to give the hippos a miss and stick to bird-watching and lounging at the pool when holidaying at Sun International’s amazing Zambian hotels. And although we can’t blame you, we’ve also been known to make like a hippo and paddle in the pool all day…

We have to warn you, miss this amazing experience at your peril! An encounter with a herd of hippos is an once-in-a-lifetime African adventure that will leave you proudly claiming hippos as your favourite animal.

Did you know? A group of hippos is known as a herd, pod, dale, or, our favourite, a bloat.

A rather colourful mammal, the milk produced by the mother hippo is bright pink and the “sweat” secreted by the hippo is blood-red. The pink milk which looks a bit like a strawberry milkshake is a result of an acid combination, while the red “sweat” acts like a natural sunscreen and a bacteria-repellent.

Full of surprises, the hippo actually can’t swim nor float, despite its love of water. This surely makes the hippo the symbol for pursuing your passions despite the obstacles! However, that being said, when enjoying a canoe safari on the Zambezi, we don’t suggest that you dive in! Hippos are extremely territorial and have a bad-temper when their water kingdom is disturbed. But then again, other water creatures often use grumpy hippos as floating islands, with baby crocs and turtle occasionally spotted sunning themselves atop a hippo.

A comfortable floating island for some, a brave beast to others…

Legend has it that the greatest compliment that you could give an ancient Zulu warrior would be to call him a hippopotamus. Believed to be even braver than the mighty lion, hippos were revered for their strength, aggression and power.

Why not test your bravery with an incredible elephant-back safari? Or enjoy the sights and groans of the hippos from the comfort of a boat with a river safari. Whatever exciting safari experience you choose, you can be sure that there’s a mighty bloat of hippos waiting for you in the magical Zambezi River.