Hippos are fascinating creatures, with a massive body, huge, dangerous teeth, and powerful jaws with the power of a sledgehammer. They spend 16 hours each day to keep themselves cool in their current habitats. Though most think that these large mammals swim or float, their feet come with hooves that are in no way fitted for swimming. Instead, they walk or run on the river bed, reaching speed up to 4.97 mp/h, and approximately 18.6 miles per hour on land. Add their aggressive and territorial demeanor, Hippos are one of the most dangerous and feared animals on Earth.
Nevertheless, Hippos are fun to watch by boating or traveling on a safari under the guidance of trained and armed guards. But, where are the Hippos are? Here, discover where Hippos live and the best places to see them in the wild.
Where do Hippos live?
Today, Hippos are only widespread in sub-Saharan Africa. They are more common in eastern Africa, while rare in the western regions. Overall, there are an estimated 125,000 to 150,000 individuals, divided into smaller groups and scattered in different countries.
These mammals can be found in northern DR Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, The Gambia, and South Africa. Other countries include Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Eritrea, Ghana, Rwanda, Malawi, Mozambique, Senegal, Swaziland, and Togo.
The common hippopotamus lives in streams, swamps, lakes, and river settings, as long as the water level isn’t too shallow nor too deep. Ideally, the depth should be 6.5 feet, which can allow them to submerge, cools them down, and prevent dehydration. Their timid and smaller counterpart, the pygmy hippopotamus, thrives in the forests of Western Africa. They are prevalent in Liberia and Ivory Coast and rarer in Sierra Leone and Guinea. Fun trivia note, President Calvin Coolidge had a pet pygmy hippopotamus.
The Top Places To See Hippos In Africa
Though hippos are natives in most parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, there are certain sites where you can spot these magnificent creatures without a fuss.
1. Liwonde National Park, Malawi
Located in the southern region of Malawi, the Liwonde National Park is transcended by the Shire River. The stretch of the Shire River that falls within the park boasts one of the largest congregation of hippopotamuses in southern Africa, allowing you see to see a hippo in every 20 to 30-meter range. In addition, elephants and rhinos also live in the area, and it’s a sure treat to the three Big Grey Giants in one locality.
2. Kruger National Park, South Africa
One of the most popular game parks, Kruger National Park is home to many rivers, such as the Olifants River, Sabie River, Crocodile River, Luvuvhu River, and the Letaba River, where a huge population of hippos fondly bathe and wallow. The game reserve also has well-maintained driving tracks, which you can take to see other animals, like ostriches, lions, leopards, and buffalos.
3. Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Situated in the northern region of Tanzania, the Serengeti National Park is part of the vast Mara-Serengeti wildlife ecosystem, most famous for its wildebeest migration. Nevertheless, the park also has many waterholes and rivers, where you can check hippos as they play in the water or rest to cool their skin. Retina Pool is the best place within the park and is one of the few spots where visitors are allowed to leave their cars and view these massive mammals on foot.
4. Gola Forest, Sierra Leone
If you wish to see the rarest species of hippos, then you’ll need to visit Sierra Leone’s Gola Forest, the only place across the globe where Pygmy Hippos can be viewed in their natural habitat. However, they are extremely nocturnal, which means they can be hard to spot during the day.
5. iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa
iSimangaliso Wetland Park in the province of KwaZulu-Natal has the largest estuarine system and is home to the largest hippo population in South Africa. You can ride a boat to witness these spectacular animals in their usual habitat or encounter them on the St. Lucia’s while driving at night.
6. Okavango Delta, Botswana
Okavango Delta is a UNESCO World Heritage site, which is dubbed as the “Eden of Africa” due to its immensely rich biodiversity unequaled by any other region in Southern Africa. Hippos are part of its iconic animals. Visitors often hear cronking noises from pods of Hippo as they wallow in the lagoons.
Africa serves as the refuge of the Hippotamus. See to it to visit one of the listed places when you’re on the continent as your tour won’t be complete without seeing these amazing animals in their natural environment.