As we drive those last few kilometers toward the campground, we concentrate on catching those final signs and turns. Therefore, we felt rather foolish when we pulled in today and everyone who had arrived before us said, "Did you see the hippos?" We had not. Sure enough. Within walking distance of where I am sleeping tonight a group?pod? of hippos floated lazily in the water. Not to worry. These were only the first of countless others we would enjoy today.
We are enjoying the St. Lucia wetlands, a UNESCO World Heritage site with a diverse mix of environment and wildlife. With the Indian Ocean on one side and the fresh water of Lake Lucia on the other, and the brackish water that flows in between, there's an ecosystem here for everyone.
Today we boated down the lake to see the hippos. It wasn't hard to spot them. Their giant hulks were splayed on the banks and floated in the water. Because the day was overcast and the sun not so hot, we were lucky that more of them were out of the water than usual. As they dried, their skins turned a surprising shade of pink around their heads. They were rather irritable today, having spent the morning being photographed by a National Geographic film crew, and then they had to put up with us. Life is tough.
The hippos congregated in large groups of as many as twenty. They did not seem to be in the least interested in personal space and were piled on top of each other helter skelter. When they floated in the water, their flicking ears drew our attention even from a distance. More hippos kill people in Africa than any other animal here. They only eat vegetation, but they are so darn big that if you get in their way, your story is over.
In between the hippos groups, smaller congregations of crocodiles sunned themselves. All of them must have felt satiated; no one was cruising for dinner as we came by. Truly an ominous looking animal, especially the ones over fifteen feet long. Water birds also enjoyed the lake, soaring the wind currents looking for fish or tip toeing through the water, watching for that silver flicker that indicated dinner was here.
When we returned to the campgground for our own dinner, we were surrounded by monkeys, ready to help us finish eating it. They seemed to know exactly when dinner time was and roved between the campers, looking for anything yummy that they could filch.