The lions and the Hippo

several lions on a termite mound

People often ask me why I continue to go back to Africa and on safari...or more specifically, why I keep going back to the Maasai Mara.

It's an easy answer -- every day is different.  Every day brings different animals and different behaviors.

Some days can be slow as far as wildlife sightings or photographic moments, some days can be super exciting, some hand wringing with worry (ie. for the safety of a baby animal).

Some days are full of lazy animals...and everything in between.

In November, 2022 in the Maasai Mara, I was staying with Tembo by Jackson while on safari with The Odyssia Collection (both companies I highly recommend) and our first afternoon, we found a lion pride in the middle of the grasslands.  (about 4:00 pm)

As is typical for lions (well, most cats), they were lounging around and relaxing.    

a lioness on a termite mound

Several were up on termite mounds and even though the grass wasn't that tall, the lions still hide very well and every once in awhile, we'd see another one lift its head.   

several lions on a termite mound

The pride (or at least the members that were here) consisted of several adult females, and a bunch of sub-adults.   (sub-adults are cubs that aren't babies but aren't adults yet...think teenagers)

The sky was beautiful and we decided to just wait with them and see what may transpire.     (The below image is available for sale in my store)

Lions on termite mounds with the huge grasslands and sky behind them with huge white puffy clouds

The lions were just content to laze around with one occasionally getting up and walking to another one and changing positions.    

This is where patience pays off.

About 1.5 hours after we arrived on scene (5:40 pm), one of the sub-adults was getting "bored" and decided to try his luck at chasing some saddle-billed storks.

The shenanigans seemed to stir the pride a little bit and it was time to move out.  

 We guessed it was time to hunt.   It was a large pride with many mouths to feed.

It was almost 6:30pm and we needed to get back to camp when we saw a hippo walking straight towards the pride of lions....

Hippos are strange looking creatures with impossibly short legs to carry their huge bodies.   They are also touted as one of the most dangerous animal in Africa.    

They aren't overly aggressive...the problem is they leave the safety of water (usually at night) to graze on grasses.   They come back to the water in the early mornings and sometimes later depending on how far they had to go to find nutritious grass.  

This is where conflict can occur...when they are returning to their river or water hole and they run into humans that are going to fetch water.   Hippos are very territorial and very vulnerable when out of water and that's usually when an attack on a human can occur.  

Although I know the lions have to eat, I do not relish watching another animal die.  The struggle for life is brutal.    Both sides are fighting to survive and as natural as it is, it hurts my heart and soul every time I witness a successful hunt.

I wasn't overly concerned this time because the pride had a lot of youngsters and in my experience a few big males were necessary to pull down an adult hippo. 

But, with nature you never know.   The males could be there hidden or the pride could get lucky.

We watched eagerly as the hippo walked closer and closer to the lions.    

A few of the lions practiced their stalking technique.   Things were getting real.

One of the youngsters broke and rushed the hippo and ran by him - I have no idea what the strategy was with that one - most likely just over-excited.

Another one makes an attempt and the hippo becomes fully aware he's in danger.   He turns and starts to run.

Running ... both a life saving tactic and an invitation for the lions to CHASE.    It's an instinctual thing for lions to chase running animals.   I've seen it many times.   If an animal stops running, the lion can get confused (or perhaps she's just re-strategizing).  But when an animal runs - the lions will chase.

More of the lions picked up the chase and the hippo turned to face them.

The lions circle.  He's surrounded.

Then, it's off to the races.   The hippo runs and gets through the circle of lions (the lions don't want to be on the receiving end of the hippos mouth and huge teeth).

He tries to outrun the lions.

One gets some claws on his back and falls off.   

The hippo gets into a small ravine and finds safety for a few seconds and then bolts with the lions quick on his heels.

It was getting quite dark and they were getting far away so we decided to start the engines and follow.

We were in the midst of following when the hippo made it to his water hole and made a huge splash as he found his way to safety.

The lions knew they were outmaneuvered.   A few stopped to drink water and then they moved on.

The hippo lives for another day and the lions would have to try elsewhere to get fed.

After that adrenaline filled evening, we returned to the camp for hot showers and a delicious meal.   The food at Tembo by Jackson is phenomenal...but that is a story for another post!

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The Elephant Whisperer Book Review

me holding the book the elephant whisperer

I don't remember who told me the story or when I first heard it, but it must have been several years ago.

The story of a man who rescued a herd of elephants and earned their deep love and respect stayed with me.

It touched something inside me, but as life often goes, I forgot all about it... until recently.

A few weeks ago, a friend on Facebook shared her excitement about a book called "The Elephants of Thula Thula," the third installment in a series.

That post reminded me of the story, and I knew I had to read the books and discover the incredible journey of this man and the extraordinary elephants he devoted himself to.

I ordered all three books: "The Elephant Whisperer," "There's an Elephant in my Kitchen," and "The Elephants of Thula-Thula."

Carrying the first book with me on a recent trip, I dove into its pages, ready to immerse myself in the emotional rollercoaster that awaited.

From the very beginning, the beauty of Lawrence Anthony's writing captivated me.

His words painted beautiful pictures, bringing to life a dangerous and enchanting herd and their intertwining fates. 

Through his storytelling, I discovered not only the incredible world of elephants but also the rich tapestry of the Zulu people and their traditions. I gained insight into the complexities of conservation, tribal conflicts, and the daunting challenges faced by those working to protect wildlife in the face of government regulations.

But what truly touched me were the accounts of trust and connection between Lawrence Anthony and the elephants. With each turned page, I embarked on a journey that was both breathtaking and heart-wrenching.

The book evoked so many emotions—smiles, tears, a racing heart, and sweaty palms. I found myself holding my breath in suspense during perilous encounters with poachers and even in moments of tension with the elephants.

Lawrence Anthony's storytelling skills are extraordinary. He vividly describes each moment, allowing the reader to experience the trials and triumphs alongside him.

As I read, it felt as though I walked every step of the journey, sharing in the joys and sorrows, and connecting with the profound bond between man and animal.

However, I made a mistake—an emotional one. I read the final chapters of the book while on an airplane, and the floodgates of my emotions burst open. The decisions Lawrence had to make and the losses he had to endure left me sobbing uncontrollably. It was a powerful reminder of the  impact a book can have on our hearts and souls.

"The Elephant Whisperer" is not merely a book; it's an experience.

Whether you are an avid animal lover or simply someone who appreciates the majesty of nature, I implore you to read this remarkable story. 

It shines a light on the sacrifices made in order to save the lives of these magnificent creatures, providing a deeper understanding of the complexities of human-wildlife conflict and the relentless poaching crisis. 

So, pick up "The Elephant Whisperer" and prepare to be moved, enlightened, and forever changed.

I purchased the soft cover edition of the book and absolutely loved seeing the words on a physical page and the feel of the paper as I turned the pages.   I usually read on a kindle app on my phone, but somehow the book felt more visceral, more real by turning the pages...perhaps bringing me back to my childhood before electronic books and audible were there - back to my curious wonders and delights of childhood.

However you desire to read it (paper back, hard cover, audible, kindle), I highly recommend you pick up a copy and read it!

Here is a link to purchase the book.  This is my affiliate link from Amazon- it is no different for you to use it (the cost is the same) but it makes a world of difference to me.   The small commission I get paid for pointing you in the right direction helps me to keep creating content.   I so appreciate it!

Click here to open amazon

Below is the video review of the book if you prefer a video version.