While people visiting Africa on safari are usually primed to catch the big five game animals (rhino, elephant, leopard, lion and buffalo), there are plenty of other incredible creatures that are a must-see for travellers to the region. One of those is the hippo – with its huge canine teeth and famous yawn, this water-loving mammal is best spotted in rivers across the continent. Here are a few fun facts about the hippo:
- Hippos have inch-thick skin as a protection against one anothers’ foot-long canine teeth.
- Hippo skin produces a natural form of sun block
- The hippo’s closest-living relative is the whale
Luangwa and Zambezi rivers, Zambia
Zambia and Luangwa are very popular for walking safaris and the South Luangwa National Park is home to many species of herbivore. Surprisingly enough, the hippo – despite killing more people in Africa than lions, elephants and crocodiles combined – only eats plants.
The Upper and Lower Zambezi are two other places in Zambia that boast thriving hippo populations, with the Lower Zambezi National Park your best bet to see hippo during the dry season (May to October). At this time of year, you are also likely to see elephant, buffalo, lion, wild dog, crocodile and water birds.
The Selous safari region is home to hippo, lion, leopard, elephant and rare black rhino. The size of Ireland, this area is a must-visit for every lover of African wildlife. Journey down the Rufiji River and take in East Africa’s greatest waterway on a river cruise.
Maasai Mara, Kenya
If you are planning a holiday to Africa, the Maasai Mara is a good choice: it’s where a massive annual wildebeest and zebra migration occurs. The Mara and Talek rivers sustain a vast wildlife population – including hippo – and you could see up to 30 species of large mammals in the space of just three or four days.
Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda
Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park is a prime location for big game viewing.
The Ishasha sector of the park is renowned for its tree-climbing lions and is said to be home to world’s highest concentration of hippos. If you miss out on hippo in the day, try to catch them at night when they leave the rivers to graze.
This enormous park has a river system that draws wildlife from far and wide. Elephant, buffalo and hippo all gather to cool off. The beautiful Chobe is the perfect place for any professional or aspiring nature photographer to hone their craft.