Running from Hippos in Uganda

GoNOMAD Transport Editor, Marie Javins learned more than a few lessons about the seemingly sweet hippopotamus during her summer in Uganda. She tells writes about these lessons and more in her article Uganda: Wildlife is Making a Comeback.

“What’s that?” I said, pointing to some straw and mud gunk on the side of our Murchison Falls home.“Hippo shit,” responded my host, nicknamed Herr Marlboro because of his resemblance to the German Marlboro Man. “They flip their tails around when they shit, and it gets it all over the place.”

I hadn’t been aware of this when the hippo had wandered past our bed on the screened verandah the night before. I was living with Herr Marlboro in Murchison Falls National Park — the largest of Uganda’s ten national parks — for the summer.

A hippo was eating grass in broad daylight at the northern ferry landing. This hippo seem habituated to people so he got closer than he normally would have, within 50 feet. The hippo was covered in fresh scars and deep wounds. Perhaps it had been involved in a territorial dispute or in a fight with a lion or crocodile.

Then, through my 70-300 mm Canon zoom lens, I saw the hippo stiffen and look up. His face changed from “I like to eat grass” to “I will kill you, tourist.”

He charged.H.M. and I both ran for our lives, straight to our truck. As we were both about to leap up onto the pick-up bed, the hippo slowed and returned to eating grass.”