A widespread sight in most African rivers or dams, hippo are often known for their cantankerous behaviour …. aimed principally at unsuspecting canoe paddlers
trespassing through their territory! They can be bad-tempered, and it’s never wise to walk around after dark in hippo country as these huge lumbering animals can travel far and wide during their nocturnal feeding treks.

Hippo enjoy their well earned reputation. But there is a secret side to them which is hidden from safari travellers; something mysterious, different and surprising. Did you know that hippo are the only land mammal which can communicate in water and through the air at the same time? There are few sounds that define an African night quite like the grunting of hippo.

Safari camps located close to suitable water habitats are often serenaded by these aquatic bulldozers, but recent acoustic studies have revealed some fascinating behaviour. Under water, hippo actually communicate with a complex language of high frequency clicks, whistles and whines, which sound remarkably similar to the calls of dolphins and whales. It is believed that they produce these unusual sounds through a layer of fatty tissue under their chins, and use their jawbones as a kind of satellite dish to pick up transmissions coming their way. Although not much is understood, the little information that is known certainly is mesmerising.

So, the next time you are on safari, enjoying a cold sundowner in the company of
a pod of hippo splashing, grunting, blowing and bellowing, take a moment to wonder about the symphony below the surface! Africa is full of surprises … and we look forward to share more with you!


Please view our suggested African Safaris for 10 Southern & East African countries, or read further articles on African Safaris & Conservation

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