Why Hippos Don’t Eat Fish – An African Folktale

I have had many interesting questions on drive from guests – some quite thought-provoking, and some that are just down right difficult to answer (and sometimes, not because they are intelligent questions!) One of the most common questions, however, is what hippos eat, and ultimately, how do they live in harmony with the other dam dwelling animals, especially crocodiles. The easiest way to answer this, I find, is by telling them an old African Folktale:
“When God was giving each animal a place in the world, the pair of hippos begged to be allowed to live in the cool water which they so dearly loved.
God looked at them, and was doubtful about letting them live in the water: their mouths were so large, their teeth so long and sharp, and their size and appetites were so big, He was afraid that they would eat up all the fish. Besides, He had already granted the place to another predator – the crocodile. He couldn’t have two kinds of large, hungry animals living in the rivers. So God refused the hippos’ request, and told them that they could live out on the open plains.
At this news, the two hippos began to weep and wail, making the most awful noise. They pleaded and pleaded with God, who finally gave in. But He made the hippos promise that if they lived in the rivers, they must never harm a single fish. They were to eat grass instead. God said that they were to show Him every night, that they were only eating grass. The Hippos promised solemnly, and rushed to the river, grunting with delight.
And to this day, hippos always scatter their dung on the river bank, so God can see that it contains no fish bones. And you can still hear them laughing with joy that they were allowed to live in the rivers after all”. (From: When the Hippos were Hairy and Other Tales from Africa: Nick Greaves)
People are always amused with this story, and children roar with laughter. Sometimes, though, this is the only way to explain things. It makes the drive more fun, and it often has a hidden meaning that people can think about. There are many African Folktale stories out there and usually only just about every animal you can think about.

Story by Angie (River Lodge)
2014/02/06

Lilac Breasted Roller (Coracias caudatus)

As summer arrives, we have many new visitors in the form of feathers. With their beautiful colours and impressive flying skills, we have quite a few keen birders coming through the lodge. I enjoy watching all our summer migrants, but one of my favourite to photograph is the Lilac Breasted Roller (Coracias caudatus). I have sat for some time watching, and waiting for them to fly away to get the perfect action shot.
They usually prefer open woodland and savanna, sometimes alone or in pairs, it perches conspicuously at the tops of trees, poles or other high vantage points from where it can spot insects, lizards, scorpions, snails, small birds and rodents moving about at ground level.
They have quite a distingushable lilac colour on their breast, and a unique set of tail feathers which separate out into two distinct ends, quite different (but often confused with) to the other roller in their family, the European Roller.
If you enjoy your birds, whether looking at to appreciate or to take photos of, summer is a good time for birds, especially all the colourful ones we don’t see during the winter months.

Story by Kevin (River Lodge)
2014/01/18

Rainy Adventure

This last week we have been greeted by incessant rain. While it is much needed for the bush and the animals, guests arriving to what they expect to be a hot and sunny Africa often meet it with apprehension. Most expect it to ruin their safari experience, but this is only true if you let it! Although it has rained at least a little on all 3 of my guests’ game drives so far, it hasn’t affected their mood whatsoever. On the contrary, we’ve been having a blast slipping and sliding down the very wet roads on our determined quest to find the animals. We’d been lucky enough to have an awesome elephant sighting, watching in the rain as the herd with a couple newborn babies were playing and wallowing in a freshly formed and constantly expanding mud pan. Even the lions, which sometimes like to hide under the cover of thick bush in such weather, were considerate enough to have killed a wildebeest right next to the road, affording an incredible sighting of our big male lion feeding on his catch. So despite the rain, we were lucky enough to still have a lasting and memorable safari experience over the last couple days, with even a little extra added fun and adventure!

Story by Kevin (River Lodge)
2014/01/28

Under a Watchful Eye

Animals, just like humans, have personalities. Think about your dog at home – some days your dog is beyond excited about anything and the next, he might be laying in his basket, having what we as humans would call an “off” day. As rangers, we constantly see the behaviour of the animals and their reactions to different situations. These situations could include the weather, environment around them or hormonal influences. We have so many guests asking us everyday whether all the videos they have seen about animals attacking people are true, and whether things like that happen to us. Even though we do see many amazing things, we have been taught to be aware of our surroundings, especially when we are out in the bush. People who are going on safari for the first time are usually quite nervous and underestimate the sheer size and power some of these animals have. I have had many guests who are full of confidence while we’re driving around, but as soon as we’re near some lions, they’re suddenly pushing themselves as far into their seats as it will allow. Our animals are beautiful, and no doubt, could instill fear in anyone, but, if you know how to pick up the subtle hints they give off as warning signs, your safari experience (whether in a private reserve with a qualified ranger, or when you are driving yourself around a national park) will be more amazing than you could have ever imagined. When you are ready to go on safari, keep in mind that the animals have good days and bad days, too, and try pick a place where you will feel comfortable enough enjoying them from a distance where you and the animals feel happy. Don’t ever push animals, because then you could just land up being the star of yet another video on the internet. Enjoy your safari, and remember that the animals are not dangerous – only the people who don’t know how to behave around them!

Story by Angie (River Lodge)
2014/01/26

Western Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)

Every now and again, you get up close and personal with a particularly beautiful bird. As I am rather fond of the birds of prey – each displaying their magnificent talons, strong beak and striking colours – I find myself drawn to taking pictures of them whenever I get a good opportunity.
One of my absolute favourites (if I really had to choose), would have to be the Western Osprey. It’s astonishing white feathers and stark, dark eyes make them look far wiser than they are given credit for.
This bird is diurnal, preferring to dine on fish. It possesses specialised physical characteristics and exhibits unique behaviour to assist in hunting and catching prey. It is a large raptor, reaching more than 60 cm (24 in) in length and 180 cm (71 in) across the wings. It tolerates a wide variety of habitats, nesting in any location near a body of water providing an adequate food supply, and occurs on all continents except Antarctica.
The Western Osprey is a summer migrant, making its appearance all the more worthwhile. I am still quite new in the birding world and I enjoy watching all of the feathery creatures, some more majestic than others, but my heart still skips a beat when I see one of these fierce creatures, hunting for their next meal.

Story by Angie (River Lodge)
2014/01/17

The Best Job in the World

The past few days have been really exiting – so many different sightings of animals interacting with one another. Not too long ago, we had two male hippos battling it out in one of our dams, real serious fight – water splashing everywhere, blood coming from the hippos mouths, spit almost flying on our faces… A real show of muscle! But it was an amazing sighting! A few days after that, we had our newly released male cheetah chasing blue wildebeest around and jackals around in an open plains. However, the best sighting was about a day ago. Our pride of lions killed a female buffalo while in the background, there were three rhinos just having a drink of water and enjoying the show. It didn’t stop there – after that, our big male lion and his lioness came and stole the carcass from the pride and drove them away. And the very next day, we had a lovely interaction between our lion cubs and mother with some buffalo. I didn’t go on drive tonight, but I heard from the other rangers that there were several leopard sighting all over Kapama and all in the same drive. It’s been a really exciting week and looking forward to my next drive, to see what new adventures await us.

Story by Jakes (River Lodge)
2013/12/23