Thursday, 22 September 2016

Yield for Hippo Crossings

Friday September 2, 2016

We hopped on a pontoon boat to venture into the waters with hippos and crocodiles- who's great idea was this?!? We got on with about twelve other people and a great guide who was very knowledgable. The pontoon boat has eight sections on the bottom of the boat, in case a hippo bites the bottom. If they bite a part of the boat, only that 1/8 sections will fill up with water and you can move to shore without having your boat sink. Regular pontoon boats only have one section on each side. 
Within a minute on the boat, we drove right up to the "townies". The "townies" are a group of hippos who enjoy wandering into town to pick up garbage, see the sights and have a nice evening out.

Our guide Doug then told us some really interesting information about the animals. Did you know that hippos live about 50-55yrs and on average, weigh about 2 tonnes? That's impressive, but the more impressive fact is that they can run up to 25km/hr in water and up to 55km/hour on land!!!!! That is faster than Usain Bolt!!!! On average, 2900 people are killed each year by hippos and they are one of the most dangerous animals in the world.

Scientists also wanted to know how heavy a hippo's skin would weigh. The skin of one hippo can weigh up to 500lbs. Hippos are massive animals. Their babies gain 10lbs per day in the first eight months of their lives. 

These giant beasts were terrifying to be that close to in the water, but I was also completely enamoured by them. These vegetarians are so ferocious. They do not kill for food, they kill if you get in their way, if you bother them or if they feel threatened.

I was so very close to one of the most dangerous animals in the world. It was an honour to be this close to these animals- YES! I'm smiling, this close to hippos!!

We also got to see the classic South African bird- the king fisher dive to catch a fish three times!

As we drove around in our pontoon boat, we approached two different crocodiles! We learned that crocodiles have hollow teeth. They can have up to 42 sets, yes 42 SETS for each tooth! They live for about seventy years and as they age, they lose their teeth. Generally, crocodiles do not die from other predators, they die from starvation. They lose their teeth until they can no longer eat. It takes about two years, but they eventually starve to death. These dinosaur looking creatures don't look any nicer being close to them...they are still fearsome.

We had some time driving around in the boat, listening to animal facts and enjoying the beautiful day on the water seeing the hippos and crocodiles. It was such a crazy experience to be in the boat, so close to danger!

We survived the boat ride and returned to the safari lodge. Our little friends were waiting to say hello to us again- our monkey buddies!

I got the opportunity to FaceTime my parents, and I was lucky that my three nephews were at their house. I got to see their adorable faces and walked throughout the lodge showing them the beauty there and, also, showing them our neighbours! My nephews got to see a small bit of South Africa through the amazing gift of technology. Half way around the world and I could still see three of my favourite humans.

I had a nice shower, wandered through the town and got ready for dinner. Andy, 'Me, Brad and I started walking into town. It was dark, with the only light illuminating the restaurants and roadside businesses. We were chatting, and I looked up to see a large dark shadow. The shadow then came into a light and I grabbed Brad's arm and said "that's a hippo!!!" Everyone stopped dead in our tracks, and we watched a hippo cross in front of us, into a driveway to another safari lodge. Andy, being the safe and rational one, tried to convince us to go back to get the car, but we waited a couple minutes and continued on our way for a delicious dinner. 

These dangerous, vicious animals we just saw and heard about on the boat ride had wandered right in front of us! Our very own safari! It was terrifying, but also thrilling! An experience of a lifetime.

I went to bed feeling absolutely thrilled and so excited about the incredible safari day and personal hippo crossing I got to experience.

The next morning we left the safari lodge. In the morning, the waitresses were told that we saw a big hippo cross the road the night before. One of the ladies said "yeah", unenthusiastically. Brad then told her "you know, we were so scared, they kill so many people, they are so dangerous", to which her response was "Oh, no, not him". Must have been a townie!

Andy then drove us to a small town close to Durban. We wandered through a path with nice, lush trees and POOF! There was the Indian Ocean! 

It was so beautiful. I had never seen or been in the Indian Ocean, so it was an absolute thrill to dip my feet in the warm, clean water. It was refreshing and such a great stop!

We then visited the George Hotel. It is the only place in the world that brews and serves a beer called Zulu Blonde. We got to wander around the hotel and take photos, have a nice cold drink together and see their unique bars and hotel.

We enjoyed our time at the beautiful George Hotel. The bar was not supposed to be open, but Andy's charm and a very sweet lady allowed us to see the place and have a nice, cold drink!

We left the George Hotel and South Africa behind us. We were so amazed by our trip and so grateful to have an amazing weekend, safari, and a close encounter with a hippo.

Thank you South Africa!

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