sabi sabi ranger stories

Macho, Macho Man

"OK folks, shall we walk down to the river and see if we can see any hippos?" I asked as I pulled my Land Rover off the road, close to a spot where a group of hippopotamus had been seen the day before. The response from my guests, two gorgeous young Spanish ladies and a South African gentleman, whose wife had not joined us on this excursion, was rather muted. I surmised that this was probably due to my rather graphic description, the day before, of how hippos are known to kill more people in Africa than any other mammal! I assured my guests that I would not walk them into any potentially dangerous situations and that we would view the hippo from a safe distance. To reassure them further, I sent my tracker, July Nkosi, down to the river to scout the pathway for any danger.

As July disappeared down the path the gentleman began regaling the ladies about his many visits to the African bush and how he'd personally survived many close encounters with hippo, and various other creatures, unscathed. I did not think his stories were helping the ladies participate in what was sure to be a memorable experience, so I politely interrupted when I heard July's whistle, signifying all was safe, and said "Let's go!" The gentleman agreed and winked at the ladies saying they had nothing to worry about, as he would be there to protect them. On that note we set off down the path with me in the lead, followed by the gentleman and the two very nervous ladies bringing up the rear.

As we walked down the path, I explained that we were walking on a pathway created by hippos when leaving the river at night to graze, and then returning before sunrise. I stressed that it was unusual for hippos to leave the river during the day and that it was very unlikely that we would encounter hippo on the pathway now. The gentleman nodded knowingly and again reassured the ladies they were one hundred percent safe with two men accompanying them. So we continued down the pathway dense with riverine forest on either side.

About halfway down the path I stopped my guests to point out a kite spider suspended in its delicate orb web. Kite spiders have beautifully coloured, ornate carapaces and the ladies, especially, were very impressed and looking a lot more relaxed. Suddenly the silence was shattered by a dominant hippo bull letting out its booming foghorn like call. Before the call could stop echoing through the bush, the gentleman, with his extensive bush experience and all, had pushed both ladies aside and was running up the path, back towards the Land Rover. Only when he heard our laughter, did he stop running and sheepishly return. The ladies and I looked at each other and mutually decided to say no more.

On reaching the river we saw a group of seven hippos lazing in the water. One was the large bull, which had shattered the gentleman's nerves a few minutes before. As if he was aware of the gentleman's earlier humiliation, he again began grunting, but this time it sounded more like laughter. Trying to a keep a straight face was very difficult. Fortunately the South African began smiling and then laughing himself, which led to us all collapsing in laughter on the riverbank. This strange display instantly silenced the hippo bull. He snorted his disgust and began to drift down stream away from us.

The gentleman concerned has become a regular visitor to Sabi Sabi. Each time I have taken him on safari since the 'hippo incident', we have entertained his fellow guests with this story.

By: Ed Farrell

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