Hippo Spotting 101

Continuing our adventure from our last column, we were heading back to Fisherman’s Camp hoping the rain would clear out and we could go on our boat cruise. As luck would have it, the weather cleared and we made our way down to the dock, donned our lifejackets and loaded into the boats. The lake was calm as we headed out along the shore line, spotting several large fisher eagles in the trees but, as yet, no hippos.

Our tour group arrived at the point and were mesmerized by hundreds of pelicans all around us. As we retraced our route back along the shoreline, the shout went out and we spotted some little grey ears above the water line. Training our eyes to the shore line, we noticed several more Hippos. Our driver thought this the perfect time to advise us that hippos can move up to eight kilometers an hour in water and stay under for three to five minutes. They can also be very aggressive when protecting their young and we had spotted several babies. All eyes kept watching to see where they would pop up again after they went under as they have been known to charge boats. Our group headed back to dry land as the sun was starting to set and were thrilled with our hippo experience. Later that evening, we drifted off to sleep with the sound of hippos munching on grass in the distance.

We woke up bright and early the next morning to sunny skies, packed up our campsite, and headed inland out of the valley to Aberdare National Park; which is located in the higher areas of the Aberdare mountain range. As we headed higher up into the mountains, it was hard to believe we were still in Africa, with overflowing creeks and thriving fields as we entered the park. Our small group of adventurers were amazed at how lush the area was. We were hoping to see elephants today, perhaps hiding between the leafy green trees as we made our way deeper into the park. We detoured off the main road and followed the waterfall sign. Unsure of what to expect as we parked and headed down the trail to the waterfall, the sound of roaring water telling us we were getting closer. As we rounded the corner and walked out onto the viewing platform, we could not believe our eyes. A 300 foot waterfall was thundering down the side of the mountain with lush greenery all around it; it reminded us of Hawaii. As we looked around the area, we noticed several other waterfalls on the other side of the

mountains and were mesmerized by the sheer natural beauty of this area.

After these amazing views, we went looking for a spot to picnic lunch. Unfortunately, the weather had plans of its own and we were forced to head for shelter in our vans to finish off lunch. Next our group headed back down the now muddy road and we jokingly wondered whose van would get stuck first... and for how long. After all, it’s not a safari until someone gets stuck. Several “Ohs” and a “that was close” later and we had made it halfway out when Kepha, in the lead van, slowed in a large muddy rut and then involuntarily stopped. After some jostling and good natured kidding, our driver Sammy and cook Jon hopped out of the van fished out the rubber boots and ropes. The duo then proceeded to pull the other group back out of the mud. After dislodging them, our van went first to show them how it was done and we continued to the paved road without further incident.

No one could have foreseen that the excitement of our misadventure in the mud would pale in comparison to the next leg of our tour. As the rain stopped, we popped the roofs and were off for some more game spotting. It didn’t take long to spot a hyena sauntering across a road off to our left and we decided to slowly move in for a closer look. As we crept closer, the hyena was joined by a companion and they timidly kept their distance. As the van slowed to a stop, we could hear snarling in the bushes in the gulley below us and we noticed several other hyenas ready to pounce on their catch. Having lost track of the other two hyenas, we scanned the area and noticed they had gained a little courage and were heading closer to the van. As the hyenas closed on the van, Rachel Clark, our co-escort, started to become very nervous and we took this opportunity to joke we would use her as hyena bait. Before the joking could fade, the hyenas were already sniffing our bumper. Luckily, they quickly became bored and headed into the bushes to check out the ruckus we had heard earlier. Now on our way to the entrance of the park, we rounded a corner and noticed a large Kaped Buffalo standing alongside the road. Some Black and White Colobus monkeys, that had similar markings to a skunk and a fluffy pom pom end to their tail, rounded of our safari in Aberdare National Park. No elephants but another day of diverse and amazing scenery! We were promised elephants for the following day, and some more of the Big Five, but you’ll have to wait until next month’s adventure to see what we find at Sweetwater’s Game Reserve.

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