Weekly Photo Challenge: Lost in the Details – The Story of a Hippo

To meet this week’s challenge, we have to visit Mukambi, on the Kafue River in Zambia.

Meet Basil, the local Hippo. At first glance, he seems to be just your friendly, everyday sort of hippo. Big, rather round, and sleepy. But Basil’s story didn’t have a happy beginning.

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As a three-month baby, a young bull courted his mother. When she succumbed to his amorous advances, the stepfather naturally turned on Basil. Hippos do this. Basil fled for his life, left the river and ran blindly on the bank. In hippo-land, you see, the new bull insists on raising only his own children. Basil had to be killed, so Young Bull and Mamma can start all over again. The previous bull had been chased off; his offspring must go, too.

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By sheer good luck, Basil found himself on the grounds of the lodge and headed for something he recognised: water! The lazing tourists exhibited remarkable discretion, and agreed (in varying stages of terror) that Basil may have the pool to himself. Young Bull snorted, stomped around…and left. Basil has been a non-paying guest ever since.

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Basil doesn’t mind being photographed, but I was rather careful not to use a flash. Those aren’t crocodile tears, by the way – it’s a mucous secretion to protect the eyes.

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Although he can be rather nosy, he closes his nostrils from time to time, like he would under water. He seems quite docile, but he’s still a wild animal. Named after Basil Fawlty (Fawlty Towers), guests will take their G+T’s at a safe distance. He prefers the lounge during the hot summer days, which means we had to seek shade in the gardens.

hippo 2

He prefers to stay away from the river, where Young Bull still waits.


But Basil doesn’t mind. He’s turned his back on the pod of hippos in the river. He’s quite content in his new kingdom, where he rules in benign slumber.

And so we come to the end of Basil’s story. One day, he’ll return to the river, and select a hippo-maiden to be a special friend. Will he return to his safe haven, or will he be brave enough to face Young Bull?

Only time will tell…


24 thoughts on “Weekly Photo Challenge: Lost in the Details – The Story of a Hippo

    1. Amos van der Merwe Post author

      Thank you. It was a unique experience to see him there. He slept until the evening at ten, when he finally got up and wandered off. Only then could guests stop entering the dining area through the back door!

    1. Amos van der Merwe Post author

      The rules in the jungle are harsh and uncompromising, and sometimes incredibly sad. In Basil’s case, sure death got exchanged for a life in the lodge, being admired and photographed. Still, he’s a wild animal and is respected as such. Is it right? Is it okay? So difficult to tell. But to me it confirmed the interrelationship of man and nature and I can’t think back on that trip without remembering the sleeping hippo…and it always makes me smile.

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  4. scrapydo

    Great shot you made here. Nature can be so cruel to the female offspring when its’ a new male or younger male. Thanks for sharing these interesting photos and descriptions

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  7. hibrowtv

    I enjoyed this story very much. Loved the sensitivity to Basil’s eyes. I am originally from Zambia, too.

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