Our overland Botswana safari included a number of memorable campsites, but one of the standouts was in the Moremi Game Reserve where we camped next to the hippo pool, blocking the main route to their grazing area.
While this seemed ill-advised (and downright dangerous), our guide assured us that it was ok because all of the hippo trails were blocked with a tent or vehicle. If we blocked only a few trails, it would be a problem because the hippos would come into camp, but this was ok. With all the trails blocked, the hippos would go just go around us.
None-the-less, I choose the tent that had a tree – albeit a scrawny one – directly behind. Hopefully that would deter them and they would choose to trample some other tent on the way to dinner!
That evening I awoke to a thumping sound, the sound of very heavy footsteps, the sound of a hippo approaching. The sound stopped and then, after a moment of silence, a hippo let out the sort of bellow that only an unhappy hippo very close at hand could make. He was definitely near the tent and not happy.
But what happened next was surprising. After a moment or two of silent waiting, the hippo grunted, waited a bit more, and then turned and called out toward the pond. This call wasn’t a belligerent “Get out of my way,” but more of a notice to the community “Sorry, but we have to go the long way to graze tonight.” Immediately hippos began calling back and forth, their voices drifting around and across the pond.
And then I heard the hippo by my tent turn and walk away.
The next day we hauled our lawn chairs to the shore of the hippo pond, as content watching them as they seemed watching us.
Note: Camping on animal trails is highly dangerous. Hippos in particular are large, fast, and deadly – They are not to be messed with.