Written by: Toby Jermyn
We are in the middle of the rainy season in Botswana and as you can see the grass is long and the animals well fed and active. Its at this time of year that the huge numbers of hippos on the Chobe enter their breeding season.
Hippos are very territorial animals and we are always aware of their position on the river so as to give them a wide berth. Throughout most of the year the hippos ignore the Pangolin Photo Safaris boats and we can photograph them using our long lenses. If they feel that we are getting too close they will often open their immense jaws in a display of warning that we are encroaching on their territory then returning to a more sedate posture.
During breeding season however the bulls have huge amounts of testosterone coursing through their veins and they become very aggressive…. mostly to one another. We have often witnessed brutal fights between rival males (from a very safe distance of course).
In the above video, taken on The Chobe River, Botswana, you can see that our clients were photographing these hippos from quite some distance when the hippo decided to charge.
Whats really staggering is their speed through the water. They literally run along the bottom of the river, rather than swim, and then launch themselves upwards. A bow wave is the general warning but the guides know that the animal is several metres closer than the front of the wave!
We have never once had an instance where we have been hit by a hippo as the guides are too wary for that. Hippos have 12 inch protruding tusks on their lower jaws that can puncture the hull of a boat with ease, especially when you consider that there is several tonnes of angry animal behind them!
Hippos are amazing animals and a joy to photograph, especially when displaying to each other, but we must always remember that they are without doubt Africa’s biggest killer (from the mammals anyway) and they should always be treated with respect.
Pangolin Photo Safaris operates all year round on the Chobe River in Botswana teaching clients wildlife photography skills. We use specialised vehicles and boats (one of which features in the film) with our clients seated in custom built rotating chairs with special camera mounts. Craig Jackson, who took the film on our boat, was a client of ours, visiting and learning wildlife photography with Pangolin co-owner and wildlife photographer Gerhard “Guts” Swanepoel.