Seldom have I had the opportunity to photograph hippos grazing on our lawn, so the events of the last 15 minutes are quite extraordinary. I was in my studio working on my computer when I heard our four Dalmatians begin barking. I soon also heard Jonny yelling at the dogs, and shortly after that, he called me: “Your friend is on the lawn.”
Expecting to find unexpected visitors, I was ill-prepared for what I saw. I raced back to my studio, grabbed my camera, and started clicking away. The lighting was not very good, as it’s nearly sundown, but it’s better than the usual pitch blackness when our hippo neighbors come calling. Here he (she?) is – the latest neighbor to come munching our grass:
Even as I write and finish this post for you to enjoy, the hippo has moved so it is right outside my studio window. I can hear its gentle crunching noises, for all the world the sound of grass being broken off in small clumps.
It always amazes me how little damage hippos do. For such huge animals, their ways are very tidy and delicate. They don’t trample anything in the garden, only leaving behind little muddy footprints as they work their way around the garden.
Of course, we don’t plant anything else in the garden that hippos (or monkeys!) would like to eat. Hippos don’t generally make much noise, other than their feeding sounds, when they are out of the water, and the magical sound of their bass-voiced honh-honh-honh (which one of our dear friends can mimic SO well!) is a soul-touching sound from a wilderness life that has all but disappeared.
I did happen to notice, however, that a recent struggle between two males had flattened about 20 feet of fence and broken off about 4-5 reinforced cement fencepoles! You do not want to get too close to ANY angry hippo.
This one seems almost tame, however, as I squat on our verandah for a better photograph, one with dogs locked securely in the house:
Note that this hippo was no more than 40 feet away from me. There was nothing between this animal and myself except that rock, actually the top of a column of basalt (Baringo is VERY volcanic in origin) and about 6 steps up onto the verandah. Also note that I had left the door to our sitting room open behind me.
This hippo reminds me of our Cleo, now a permanent resident of Haller Park outside Mombasa, and wife to Owen of Owen and Mzee fame. Visit the Haller Park site and check out the Caretaker’s Diary, and search the archives of my blog here to learn more about our orphaned baby hippo.
I have on several occasions been this close to hippos on our lawn. What a fabulous place I live in! Lake Baringo is surely one of the most wonderful places in Kenya, if not in the whole world!