Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Hippos, Crocs, Monkeys, and Other Critters

The trip organizers called an audible the other day, deciding to spend some extra time at Richards Bay in northern South Africa before moving on to Mozambique. This was a great decision for us, because we used the time to visit St. Lucia, a lengthy estuary that houses the largest population of Nile Crocodiles in the world, plus Hippos, other mammals, and water birds.
Lady Luck also smiled on us: Many hippos had recently given birth, so we got to see week-old (or even younger) baby hippos hanging out with their moms. Very sweet.
Baby hippos would, of course, be a tasty morsel for the many crocodiles, but the crocs know better than that. The momma hippos have gigantic, sharp teeth that could easily chop a croc in half. The same goes for people of course. Many are the warnings that the hippo is the most dangerous animal in Africa, and that it kills more people than any other animal except the mosquito. (Note: Snakes kill many more people than hippos, but you get the idea.)

Hippos weren't the only mammals around. We also saw Bushbuck, Waterbuck (which allegedly taste so bad that crocs leave them alone), a Water Mongoose, and a troop of frolicking Vervet Monkeys.

Our feathered friends also put on a great show. Standouts included the Saddle-billed Stork, which towered over all the other birds except the Goliath Herons, and the African Fish Eagle. Other highlights were the Giant Kingfisher and the Yellow-billed Stork.

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