A decent water source is a hotly contested resource in the great African wilderness amongst all animals, however theses contests are fought hardest by those that rely entirely on them.
Hippos have a very sensitive and hairless skin that requires large amounts of moisture throughout the hot African day. Only venturing out from the watery safety after sunset to feed. Hippos are also fiercely territorial and males are not often willing to share a good water source with one another. This of course leads to some pretty spectacular displays of power.
On a hot February morning my guests and I were in search of a herd of elephants that we had been tracking for some time. It was getting hot and so I thought it would be a good idea to stop for a cup of coffee and a leg stretch on a nearby dam wall. There is often a hippo in this dam and so it is a good place to stop, have a cup of coffee and watch, a usually sleepy yet sceptical hippo peering out of the water. This coffee break was to be a fair bit different to others.
As I drove up onto the dam wall I noticed that instead of just one hippo there were two. At this point they both seemed to be pretty relaxed within the water not 3 meters from each other. I turned the vehicle off and was about to get out of the vehicle when suddenly the water exploded!
What followed was an amazing sighting of two African titans going to war with each other. Needless to say we did not get out for coffee but rather we sat and watched this all unfold for over one and a half hours. All of us, guests, myself and even my tracker were transfixed and the thought of elephants became a distant blur.
Time after time the hippos would launch themselves at each other. This gave me ample time to get my settings right and really get into an awesome wildlife “photo shoot”, something that doesn’t happen very often.
The energy coming out of the two hippos was incredible and relentless. After an hour neither showed any sign of giving up. Eventually though things did begin to calm down as the two beasts began to lose steam but still advancing at each other every once in awhile.
The sun was beginning to beat down on us and we reluctantly made the decision to leave the dam and head for the cover of a shady breakfast. Later that day on afternoon game drive I heard over the radio that the hippos were still at it although with what sounded like far less valour. The next morning we went to have another look, we needed closure.
I was pleased to see that the original male was still there and the other was gone. A successful defence of his water hole was complete. Where the intruder went, I am not sure.