Friday, March 11, 2011

March 7th – Hippo Spotting in St Lucia

From Richards Bay, we went on a trip to the St Lucia Wetland Reserve, the best place in South Africa to see hippopotami – there's over 800 of these enormous beasts skulking in the estuary here, plus lots of crocodiles and an amazing variety of birdlife too.

The boat trip takes you along the mangrove-lined banks of narrow estuary, and you spot so many different types of birds (too many for me to remember, but we did see a few enormous sea eagles). Then you spot some dark shapes in the water up ahead, and the boat gets up close to the pods of the comical looking hippos, just their eyes and noses above the water, looking suspiciously at you.

On this tour, we were very lucky – we also got to see hippos out of the water, rather than just in it. As they waddle along with their fat stomachs and almost smiling faces, they really do look like they've come from a cartoon rather than reality. We saw a couple of adolescent hippos play-fighting, jumping out of the water to lock enormous jaws; and we even got to see a couple of hippos nonchalantly mating, right in the middle of the family group. I must admit that it wasn't the most energetic love-making I've ever seen, more a case of the male just resting on the female for long periods – I'm sure he even fell asleep at one stage. I don't think the hippo karma sutra would be a riveting read!