Hip, Hip, Hippo Day - Day 311
Guess what we went to see? A Clue in the title - Hip, Hip, Hippo Day - Hurrah! What incredible creatures. And of course - much more to the day as well.
Hip, Hip, Hooray, not an early start this morning. A very congenial 8:30am start rather than 5:30am yesterday. A long journey down to St Lucia, however, time flew by as I had a lovely chat with Eve, from Washington State and is a fellow traveller at heart. She walked from Glasgow to Fort William last year and loved it. We shared many travel stories. Meanwhile, Tim was chatting with Eve's friend Diane. We do meet such lovely people on our travels. Arriving at the riverside, we hopped onto a boat to travel down the St Lucia Estuary in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. It’s estimated that there are about 800 Hippos in this region, the largest Hippo population in South Africa. We took off and immediately could see 5 crocodiles with their beady eyes peering out from the water. Further down the river we came to a bloat or is it a pod of hippopotami, about 12 in the family. There was a very young one on top of its Mum. It looked so sweet. They have such comical faces with their eyes and nostrils poking out of the water. However, these animals can be extremely aggressive and kill many humans in the country. At approx 1,500 kg (236 stone) for males and 1,300 kg (204 stone) for females, it is incredible that they manage to move their bulk at 20 mph! The skipper showed us a couple of hippo teeth. I was surprised to see how long they were, about 15 inches in length and very heavy. These are used not to feed, but to fight. Apparently, these Hippos are often seen roaming around the local town here, not an animal I’d like to meet on a dark night, that’s for sure! We carried along the river seeing a number of birds, including a giant Kingfisher, a Sea Eagle and also many pods of Hippo families. Usually, there is one dominant male in the group, not necessarily the largest, just the best fighter. A few times we saw a big splash and heard a roar from one of the aggressors – perhaps they have “Hangry” issues, they need to have a word with Tim. On our journey, we got chatting to a lovely couple, Harry and Judith from Boston. They seemed intrigued to hear about our travels, how we planned... or not. We had such a lovely chat with them and again shared travel stories. They had stayed in Peru for a number of weeks so we were interested to learn a bit about their stay there. Definitely on our wish list for next year.
Time to disembark. Chris our guide took us to a very nice restaurant where Tim and I shared sushi. A bit random in South Africa, it was delicious. We then had some time for a spot of shopping. In the last few days, we have been rather envious of some of the amazing photos our fellow travellers have taken on their cameras, not phone cameras like ours. Eve took an amazing photo of a tiny bird yesterday whereas, in my viewer, it looked like a small blob, even using the zoom. She took us to a great little camera shop ThePhotoShop St Lucia where the young man had exemplary customer service, not pushy, interested in our needs, and came up with great solutions. We decided to treat ourselves to a compact Canon, with a 40x zoom lens. Hopefully, you will be able to see the difference in our photos. Next stop was the beach. As we climbed up a slope to reach the wide golden shoreline, a young man was spraying his sand installation. Wow! It was an incredible, large curved structure of the 5 big animals and it took him 5 days to create. What a talent! Keep practising Tim, a few more hours of practice to get anywhere near to this work of art. We reached the edge of the Indian Ocean and the waves were tall and pounding. As I stood watching, a young lady pointed out to the horizon showing us whales leaping out of the water. Sadly our camera was still boxed up. Eve and Diane paddled into the sea and suddenly Eve was whipping off her clothes (she did have a bathing suit on underneath) and with no hesitation, went into the sea with a huge grin on her face. It looked so tempting, yet in my mind, it would be freezing cold. Later, these two lovely ladies coached me in for a paddle and before I knew it, I also whipped off my clothes down to my swimming costume. I didn’t swim, it was too rough and I’m not a strong swimmer, but I did get wet up to my waist. Felt quite chuffed. It was time for us to return to our Lodge, a nice hot shower and some chillax before dinner. Nearly all of our merry safari buddies ate together, chatting and laughing, then a sad farewell to LaTasha and Kevin, a delightful couple who both Tim and I enjoyed having a long chat with yesterday. LaTasha used to work in finance and now, as well as working in their own Telecom business, she coaches and runs life skills training for teenagers. Sounds familiar? We really do meet lovely people on our travels and sometimes it is amazing the co-incidences we discover.