The group of hippos frolicking along the shallows of Lake Jozini didn’t seem to notice our approach on two small AquaQuad boats. We watched their ears and eyes bob along as they moved along the shoreline we were fishing. They seemed unaware of our presence — or so we thought.
Then, three of the eight hippos turned toward our personal water craft and raised their heads. They ducked under the water, and then came up snorting and blowing water from their noses.
“Be ready. They may charge!” my friend Hayne yelled at me from his boat.
Sure enough, the three giant hippos went under and moved toward us again blowing harder than before. Hayne had told me prior to launching the small boat that the hippos would tell us when we were fishing too close to them and we would then have to back off 100 feet or more.
“When a hippo charges, he runs under water,” he had warned. “He walks on the bottom and can launch underneath you and destroy the boat and you. You can see the bubble trail but that’s a delayed reaction. If you see bubbles coming at you, just put the rod in the rod holder and start the motor and move away.”
“It’s time to move … now!” Hayne shouted as the three loudly snorted spitting water and then roared in anger before disappearing underwater about 150 feet away from our two boats.
We cranked our outboards and quickly moved a couple hundred yards away. I looked back to see that the hippos had continued their charge all the way out to where we had been.
The African hippo is the most dangerous encounter that we expected during our fishing trip to the lake in KwaZulu Natal and our boats of choice, the AquaQuad CLXs, were small enough to bolster an irritated hippo’s confidence. The one-man pontoon boats designed for fishing and fun on the water are made in Durban, South Africa, and fortunately they are nimble. Although they look something like a wide jet ski to many, the CLX boats weigh about half as much, are much more stable and offer casting platforms to fish from.
We were in Zululand, South Africa, chasing the notorious tiger fish, a species that has the dentures to destroy lures, bait or your hand if you get too close.
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