Hippos, Hippos, Hippos, Nile Crocodile, More Hippos

Tuesday January 20th ~ Travel day from Cape Town to Hluhluwe via St Lucia Estuary

Warning - look at the size of those teeth

Warning – look at the size of those teeth

On the move again today with a flight out of Cape Town to Durban, South Africa. Since this was a domestic (within the same country) flight, the post 9/11 security check-in rules were much more lax. We were not required to take off shoes, computers stayed inside our bags, and we were allowed to take our water bottles through security and on to the flight. Our new bus with our driver, Donald, was waiting for us after we collected our luggage.

Cape Town from the air

Cape Town from the air

We spent a good amount of time on the bus today, but once again Tesse kept us entertained with stories from her life, to the politics and policies of South Africa. We are really encouraging her to write her story, as her life experiences would make a fascination book and I would bet it would become a best seller.

Our bus route will take us from Durban to our overnight in Hluhluwe which is 163 miles (262 km). We have a couple of stops to break up the drive before a late afternoon nature cruise.

Country side with sugar cane crops

Country side with sugar cane crops

The area is green and lush with large farms on both sides of the road. Many crops are grown in this area, but I notice an abundance of sugar cane with some pineapples.

Jabula Beach was a quick stop for us to get our feet wet in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. The light sand beach had a quick drop off with a wicked rip tide so we were cautioned to not venture far.

On the Indian Ocean at Jabula Beach

On the Indian Ocean at Jabula Beach

The sharp drop off, makes for a fisherman’s delight, but there were also crocodiles, hippos and the great white sharks in the water, so not an ideal combination for a swim! Sure makes our California beaches tame in comparison.

Indian Ocean at Jabula Beach

Indian Ocean at Jabula Beach

ST LUCIA ~  The area and scenery were beautiful but the highlight of our day was the late afternoon nature cruise on the St Lucia Estuary. This area has the highest concentration of hippos in South Africa.  The hippos are even known to roam the streets of the town in the evening.

The estuary is part of the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park, recently renamed the iSimangaliso Wetland Park which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Our boat was the one in the background with the upper deck

Our boat was the one in the background with the upper deck

We found a seat on the upper deck right in the front which afforded us a great view and a perfect place from which to take pictures.

Prime viewing spot in the front of the boat

Prime viewing spot in the front of the boat

Right off the bat we spotted a Nile crocodile floating in the water not far from our boat. The are the largest crocodile in Africa and the second largest of the crocodilian family. Only the salt-water croc is larger.

Nile crocodile

Nile crocodile

“On average the Nile crocodile is between 4.1 metres (13 ft) to 5 metres (16 ft), weighing around 410 kg (900 lb).” ~ Wikipedia

And then the bright yellow weaver birds with an entire colony of nests along the water’s edge.

An entire colony of Weaver bird nests

An entire colony of Weaver bird nests

Weaver bird and brand new nest

Weaver bird and brand new nest

The main attraction of course is the hippopotamus and we were not disappointed. First a few small groups came into sight, and then the further we traveled into the estuary, we came across larger families. I counted 16 in the largest family group.

Hello there

Hello there handsome

Here are a few fun facts we learned about the hippopotamus:

  • Hippopotamus means “river horse”
  • They are the 3rd largest land mammal after the elephant and rhino
  • They spend up to 16 hours a day in the water which helps keep their temperature down
  • They can hold their breath for up to 5 minutes under water
  • They give birth in water, and the calf can weigh nearly 100 lbs at birth.
  • They are aggressive, dangerous and can outrun a human on land
  • Male is a bull, female a cow, and baby is a calf
  • A group of hippo is a herd, pod, dale, bloat or crash
  • They live around 45 years and eat mainly grass and water plants
  • Large canine and incisor teeth
  • The “yawning” serves as a warning
  • Average male weighs 3300 – 4000 pounds
  • They have webbed feet, but are not good swimmers and can not float.

The hippos appear to be docile, looking at us with serene eyes, but we learned that they are ill-tempered and responsible for killing people every year. They can attack without provocation and at any time, however their “yawning” is a warning sign.

One of the biggest surprises for me was just how large their teeth are. The captain on our boat passed around one she classified as on the smaller side. The incisors can reach 40 cm (1.3 ft), while the canines reach up to 50 cm (1.6 ft). They are used primarily for fighting and not for eating.

That is one massive hippo tooth

That is one massive hippo tooth

We also spotted a couple more crocs that were sunning themselves on the bank, as well as a large variety of birds.

Catching a little sun on an overcast day

Catching a little sun on an overcast day

As we returned back to the dock just before sunset, the water was smooth and peaceful.

Shoreline

Shoreline

Calm waters just before sunset

Calm waters just before sunset

The end to another wonderful day!

GRATITUDE MOMENT: Today I am grateful to have been able to touch the Indian Ocean and to have observed hippos in their natural environment.

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About Tim and Joanne Joseph

Hi and welcome! We are Tim and Joanne Joseph and we have just embarked on our "next chapter". At a stage in life where traveling the world, taking pictures, and sharing our adventures with friends and family will be our dream come true.
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14 Responses to Hippos, Hippos, Hippos, Nile Crocodile, More Hippos

  1. John Love says:

    Can I ask what kind of camera you normally use to take your pictures?

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  2. John, most of the pictures on my blog for the past year have been taken on a small pocket size camera, the Sony RX 100. We have both the 1st and second generation models that my husband and I use. On this trip, we also brought our larger cameras to be able to use a longer lens. We figured that we would not be able to get as close while on the game runs. Tim is shooting with a Nikon D2XS with a Nikkor 70-200 zoom lens (VR 1:2.8). I took some shots on my Nikon D7000 with a Nikkor 24-120 lens. I was happier with the pictures from my Sony, so went back to it the next day.

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  3. Such an interesting post! Lovely photographs, too.

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  4. Janna D says:

    Oh my! I had no idea hippopotami teeth were so big. They scared me before, but now they REALLY scare me. The ones I have seen at the zoos aren’t nearly that big or impressive. I also didn’t know they also resided in salt water. I thought of them as being mainly river animals!

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  5. Dr. Y. says:

    I love these pictures of the rhinos. They are very vivid.

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  6. Really enjoyed seeing a ‘bloat’ of hippos…

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  7. Happy trails! Love the idea of a blog by a couple (as opposed to just 1 human). Best, Wm. Eaton, Montaigbakhtinian

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  8. Barbora says:

    Thank you for all the interesting facts and photos of hippos. I must say I had no idea about the size of their teeth either. I would love to see them in live, that must have been a wondrful experience.

    Also thank you for liking my post. Have a nice time.
    czechmenu.wordpress.com

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