Crocodiles — solitary and motionless in the water or sunning on the bank — were a common sight as we paddled. Sometimes when we were on the bank, one would station itself nearby in the river to watch us. Never once did we see throngs of them churning up bloodstained river water.
Hippos dotted every stretch of river. We wove our way through them. When we saw a group standing in the shallows, we would wait upstream. They would study us for a while, in silence, their huge, comically deadpan faces turned toward us. Then they would slowly move to deeper water, submerging when we started moving and resurfacing after we passed.
As we paddled away from them, we would hear them splashing and calling, tuba-like. Once we spent half an hour entirely surrounded by 20 glumly indecisive, muttering hippos. Eventually they moved off and we were free to go.
Hippos stay cool in the water all day, then come ashore to graze after sunset. One blundered into our camp one night, adding to our adventures. I heard him climb out of the water nearby. Ever-alert Englibert clapped his hands, and the creature froze, then returned to the river with a huge splash.
If You Go
P.O. Box 279, Kariba, Zimbabwe
Mana Pools National Park
Travel Guide to Zimbabwe