Brendon’s News from the Chobe Pangolin Voyager: Hippos Behaving Like Whales?
Eager to make the most of our final excursion upriver this morning, we were out bright and early and the river seemed more serene, more beautiful and more alive than ever.
Everyone wanted to add to their growing collection of Fish Eagles and we headed straight back to Elephant Beach for this. There are five five different pairs of Fish Eagles that live around Elephant Beach along a short stretch of the river – actually less than a kilometer long. Because of the close proximity to each other, there are frequent territorial disputes as well as the tussles that break out when one bird catches a fish and one or two of the others tries to steal it.
This all adds up to magnificent photographic opportunities – no wonder we spent so much time there! We actually watched two pairs of the Fish Eagles square off against each other. And it was fascinating to see how neither pair was prepared to back down.
We finally moved on to ‘Skimmer Island’ to see how the African Skimmers were doing, and spent another hour there photographing the birds as they took off and landed, or chased each other back and forth as they argued over something or other.
The time to return to the houseboat for brunch and farewells seemed to creep up on us very suddenly, and then it was time to welcome the new arrivals. After lunch and a quick briefing we were ready to climb into the photographic boats for the first excursion with the new group.
And what a start we had!
Just as we we were ready to set out, a whole herd of elephants arrived on the bank next to us and started to swim across the river just meters away. It was marvelous, and the oohs and aahs punctuated by clicking cameras showed everyone’s appreciation of the moment.
Carrying on up the river we again photographed a variety of birds … but the highlight of the afternoon was yet to come –
We found two male hippos and were aghast as we watched their combat! Luckily we remembered our cameras to photograph an incredible unfolding scene. They were leaping – sort of ‘porpoising’ out of the water, each one trying to jump higher and create more turmoil, noise, and splashing that the other. Then – how he did it I don’t know – but one of the males actually breached … yes, the only word is breached, like a whale – as he lifted his entire body out of the water and then thundered down back into the river with an almighty splash.
We noticed that the hippos never actually touched each other during all this time – their displays just became more and more spectacular and more daring and noisy – until their altercation came to a very abrupt end, and peace reigned again. And we had collected images of a lifetime!
And there was so much more – Fish Eagles, Giant Kingfishers, Dagga Boys, more Elephants, and so on …
We decided to go to Savannah Backwater that has been successful at sunset time, but when we arrived there was nothing in sight! Just quiet all around, a truly spectacular sunset, and a wonderful spot to enjoy our sundowners after such an amazing afternoon …
Tomorrow we have decided to just drift around and see what we can find along the river …
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