Going on an African expedition is an unforgettable chance to visit exotic natural landscapes and observe the plants and animals that live there. But not all wildlife encounters are made equal, as demonstrated by this group paddling the Lugenda River in North Mozambique. The trip goes from placid to pulse-pounding when a hippo suddenly surfaces among the group, threatening to swamp their boats.
Paddling the Lugenda
The Lugenda River (also known as the Msambiti) flows in a northerly direction from Lake Amaramba/Lake Chiuta in Mozambique and is the largest tributary of the Ruvuma River. The river valley is home to the Lugenda Wilderness Camp, a major draw for tourists. Bordering the river is the Niassa Reserve, Mozambique’s largest protected area covering over 42,000 square kilometers. The Lugenda’s roiling waters are ecologically rich, home to at least 40 species of fish… and a healthy population of hippos.
Hippos are not to be trifled with
Despite their portrayal in popular culture, hippos are not the gentle, ungainly creatures they seem at first glance. Hippos are among the most aggressive and dangerous large mammals in the world, and they become particularly territorial when in water. With their large tusks and powerful jaws hippos are capable of inflicting severe injuries, and they weigh enough to easily crush an adult human. For these reasons, deadly encounters between tourists and hippos are unfortunately not unheard of.
If you plan to paddle in sub-Saharan Africa, make sure to stay alert and keep your wits about you when out on the water. You should be practiced and up-to-date with kayak rescue techniques. Most importantly, always hire an expert guide or tour operator and rigorously follow all instructions. Enjoy your African expedition, but ensure that your boat doesn’t become the next target for a hungry hungry hippo.