OK almost everyone knows hippos are very vocal. Not everyone knows that the sounds you hear are the great beasts laughing. They are the comedians of the African animal world. They tell jokes underwater in their pods and come up to laugh. The amount of laughter is directly proportional to the humour of the joke. Then there is the slow hippo. One or two are so dense they do not understand the joke and when they finally do get it they are about a minute behind the group laughter… it is a bad sign.
Seriously, hippo behave as if they were a benign beast occupying an unfulfilled niche in the wild kingdom. Not so. They are responsible for many deaths across the continent. One bite from that cavernous maw and you are half of what you were. Most deaths occur when you get between the hippo and his escape cover, almost always water.
Hippo do serve a major purpose in the African eco-structure. They convert tons of grass and vegetable matter into life sustaining fertilizer, freely distributed into many waterways. The nutrients in the water provide needed sustenance for many living things.
During our stay at Erindi, in the Livingstone Suite, set on the damn wall by itself, the hippo provided the background music 24/7. It is a very memorable lifetime experience, especially when you add in hyena, jackal, elephant, and lion. See http://www.erindi.com for more info.
The hippo is a great subject for wildlife viewing. Besides the vocal talents on audio display at regular intervals, they are frequently seen on land resting in pods or singularly, nearly oblivious to their surroundings. Many times they will remain standing with their enormous heads resting nose against the earth, quite like a large hippo statue. Other times they will brazenly crawl over sunning crocs nearly their length causing them to flee in surprise.
Only elephants are so cheeky. Elephants demand respect from all the animal kingdom including slumbering hippopotamus. When a jumbo comes near, the hippo take notice and vacate the space. Make no mistake, these rotund thick skinned members of the African landscape are near the very top of the most dangerous creatures you will encounter on your African safari. Take the time to watch and enjoy them.