If I was asked to list the animals I would want to see on a Uganda wildlife safari, the first animals that would cross my mind would be a hippo. Hippos are one of the famous animals a tourist on a safari Uganda will not miss ticking off his Uganda wildlife tour list.
Looking for an Africa safari country that will give you the best view of hippos? Uganda is home to thousands of hippos found in different lakes and rivers. During your Uganda safari, you will encounter these hippos during your wildlife safari in Uganda in abundance in about four of its National Parks including Murchison Falls National Park, Lake Mburo National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, and in Kidepo Valley National Park.
Hippos are very unique wild animals that one cannot mistake them for any other animal in the Ugandan wild. The full name for Hippos is Hippopotamus a Greek word that means River Horse however, they are referred to as hippos because it is easier to pronounce and spell.
What is a hippo?
Hippos are the third-largest living land mammal, after elephants and white rhinos. We only have two species of hippos; the large/common hippo and the smaller relative, the pygmy hippo. The common hippo is found in East Africa and south of the Sahara. The pygmy hippo is limited to very restricted ranges in West Africa. It is also very shy, a solitary forest dweller, and is now endangered. Some people assume that hippos are related to pigs, but they are actually related to whales and porpoises.
Despite their large and bulky appearance, they have adaptations to their semi-aquatic environments allowing them to move swiftly on both water and land. Their feet have four-webbed toes that are spread-out out to distribute weight evenly in water as well as adequately support them on land. They have short legs that offer them a powerful impulsion through the water. They have skin tones of purple-grey or slate colour, with brownish-pink colouring around their eyes and ears.
They have a very thick skin that is virtually hairless except for the thick bristle-like hair on their heads and tails. Their flat, paddle-like tail is used to spread excrement, which marks territory borders and indicates the status of an individual.
Hippos have powerful jaws that are capable of opening up to 150 degrees revealing their enormous incisors. Their life span is about 40 to 50 years, they both reproduce and give birth while in the water. They grow in size until they are about 25 years in age.
They live in pods, male hippos are bulls, females are cows, and baby hippos are referred to as calves. Hippos are considered some of the most dangerous animals in the world. When you are on foot and a hippo is near, keep your distance for your well-being.
What do hippos feed on?
These animals are herbivores and primarily eat grass. Many travellers that have undertaken wildlife safaris in Uganda always ask their Uganda tour guides; When do hippos feed? The answer is, they generally feed at night consuming up to 150 pounds of mostly grass.
They leave the water pool at night to graze for four to five hours, covering up to eight kilometres (five miles) of territory. They will eat about 40 kilograms (88 pounds) of food during this time. When returning from grazing before dawn, they will enter their water pool at the same spot they exited.
During your Uganda wildlife safari, you will see that during the daytime, they stay in the water to shield against the sun. Their bodies emit a natural sunscreen which is reddish in colour and some refer to it as blood sweat.
How do they weigh?
An adult weight up to 3 tons. Even though they may weigh 3 tons they are surprisingly fast. In fact, they can run faster than humans; 30 to 40 kilometres an hour for short distances.
Hippos are hunted for their meat, hide- tusks that are sold as ivory, and they are hunted because they are considered dangerous to the communities surrounding their habitat and that includes fishermen in their boats that are at times overturned by hippos.
Murchison Falls National Park Uganda is the second destination in Uganda with a high concentration of hippos after the Kazinga channel in Queen Elizabeth Park. The Kazinga channel situated in Queen Elizabeth National Park Uganda is the highest concentration of hippos in Uganda and Africa as well. Kazinga channel joins is a connecting stream (Mini River) between Lake George and Lake Edward.
Include a boat ride along the Kazinga channel during your Uganda safari tour in Queen Elizabeth National Park. As part of your adventure, you will be amazed at the number of hippos you will see. Hundreds of them as they pause in the water along the shoreline, quite a sight to behold.
While on your Murchison Falls Park safari, take a boat cruise ride up the River Nile to the bottom of the Falls. Along that route on your tour Uganda, you will see many hippo pods making Murchison Falls Park one of the best places to see hippos up close from the boat you are riding in. This gives you the opportunity for some great photo shots including open mouth ones, to hippos fighting with one another.
You can also find them on a downriver boat ride to Lake Albert and as you drive near Lake Albert Nile on a wildlife Game Drive.