I woke up to the sound of water splashing outside the stilted tent I was sharing with Laney. I knew immediately what it was. We had been warned they might come. We were deep in the Okavango Delta in the heart of Botswana at Xakanaxa Lodge.
Our guides had warned us to zip our tents shut. We were to always have a staff escort to and from our quarters after dusk and keep food out.
Our tents are not like the kind we used in the Grand Canyon. These were on stilts, equipped with mahogany furniture and electricity and had a separate bathroom access. I liked this kind of “camping”. We were situated right on the Xakanaxa Lagoon and faced the most amazing African sunsets each evening and spectacular moonsets early each morning.
Despite being housed in luxurious tents, we were still quite remote, and each night the power went off at 7:30 – so the camp was lit only by oil lamps and candles. We ate dinner at 8:00 so everyone was usually tucked in around 9:30 so we could be ready for our 5am wake up calls for safari gamedrives the next morning.
I’d seen lots of tracks around camp. We were told there were all sorts of animals around. As I walked to dinner we passed a mother and baby bushbuck (like an antelope) just outside our tent. After a grand meal our guide, Baams, escorted us back. David and Lee took one tent and Laney and I took another.
It isn’t hard to fall asleep to the sounds of the insects chirping away.
Then I heard it. The sound of water splashing. It was unmistakable. It was like someone did a cannonball just outside my room. Then I heard giant slow footsteps like the creature from the black lagoon was crawling out of the mud. One after another, sloshing its way slowly from the mud and water towards my tent. I began to hear the crunching and tearing. It was getting closer. I immediately woke Laney to tell her, “HIPPO!. “ She jumped up and we looked out the screen right beside her bed and a massive mother and baby hippopotamus were grazing right beside us.
We just sat and took it in. To be that close to a wild hippo is an amazing experience and incredibly frightening. Hippos are famous for being the deadliest animal in Africa. They are incredibly territorial and very aggressive. The hippos that came in past our tents were generally not a threat to us if we stayed in our tents.
The remainder of the night three other hippos came by our tent – including a giant male. I managed to take one very poor quality picture of it (without flash for fear of him seeing me)
It was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had.
Our African experience afforded us several nights of interesting animals outside our rooms. In South Africa at Londolozi we had Vervet monkey and baboons who were regularly on our porch. These funny guys provided much entertainment although they cause the staff a lot of aggravation.
In Victoria Falls, the resident zebras fell asleep just outside our glass doors. We just left our curtains open that night because we couldn’t get enough of falling asleep beside a family of zebras.
In Chobe, our lodge had warthogs that lived on the premises. You couldn’t go around the corner without coming across Puumba and his family. We could sit on our porch and watch the little warthog piglets play on the grass. They were so cute.
These have been some of my favorite experiences. Africa is amazing and I hope I’ll have the chance to come back to see what is waiting for me the next time I fall asleep. It really has been a dream come true.