sabi sabi ranger stories

hippo, rhino & elephant on foot

It was a clear and fresh morning as my guests and I finished our warm beverages before heading out on safari. I fired up the engine and slowly left Bush Lodge, knowing that the only thing you can surely expect in the bush... is the unexpected.

This particular morning, my guests had requested that we attempt to view hippos. I agreed and informed them that my tracker, Mishak, and I would do our very best to try and locate this huge and rather comical mammal. The land rover was full of interest and enthusiasm as we viewed a few Woodland Kingfishers ready to head north to a warmer climate, as our winter was approaching. A most awesome harem of impala crossed the road in front of us, and for a few minutes we admired their shiny coats and beautiful condition. It was then that Mishak informed me of some fresh hippo tracks crossing the road in front of the vehicle - we were on the trail.

I explained to my excited guests that if we were to find this hippo, Mishak and I would have to go on foot, as the terrain was saturated and posed a danger to the vehicle becoming stuck. All my guests agreed that they were happy to wait in the vehicle, knowing that we would not be far away. I grasped my rifle and Mishak zoned in on the tracks.

We had walked about 50m from the vehicle - still in full view of the land rover - when we heard a boisterous grunt from a small pan of water in front of us, and saw a fully grown male hippo staring us in the eye! I had my guests' video and camera equipment with me incase they couldn't see clearly from their position.

I proceeded to snap away and video the footage of the male hippo giving territorial displays and grunting loudly. To get better photos and footage, I climbed a small Guarri tree for a bit of elevation while Mishak stayed beside me on the ground. All of a sudden we heard some loud stomping from our left, but the grass was too long to view what animal it was. We stood firm and quietly to see what was coming.

Out of the long grass walked a huge male white rhino, only 40m from us. We couldn't believe our eyes, and I asked Mishak to keep his eye on our Rhino while I finished filming the hippo, who was getting a little over interested in our presence at HIS waterhole. Believe it or not, just then, to our right, over a termite mound, appeared a male elephant. Great!

Here we were, unable to move and surrounded by three of Africa's most unpredictable and enormous animals. Slowly keeping watch on all three of our companions we took evasive procedure and stepped slowly back till we could crouch down into the long grass. Grasping my rifle firmly, we leopard-crawled back to the vehicle, to be greeted by some astonished and awestruck guests, who had viewed the entire incident from the vehicle! Needless to say they got some excellent camera footage and an experience of a lifetime. Mishak and I will remember this experience for the rest of our lives!

Written by

Dallas Burton

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