As the winter hues of rust and burnt orange disappear into luminous greens and limes. Flowers bursting from their buds and birds welcoming in the morning sun. The weather shifts and high pressure systems migrate northwards allowing much needed rainfall to waken the quiet land. With this rain we notice a change in the behaviour of many animals and a natural dispersion of such animals away from the vital support of the river they depend so heavily upon in such a dry time. For one large animal in particular, water is a necessity for daily living, not only to quench ones thirst but to ensure hydration of the body and to stay cool.
The Hippopotamus in general is regarded as an extremely dangerous, aggressive animal by nature. One that many see as an animal that epitomises strength, power and size. An animal that needs to do whatever it takes in order to survive, and progression of its individual genes is its most important goal in life. In order to do this, a male Hippo needs to be dominant over a group, or harem of females, that he will guard and look after,. He will protect these females against threats and will fight for access to such females for mating rights.
It is not very often that one is allowed the opportunity to see this play out in real life. A battle of two beasts, tons of body mass flung at each other, through the water, teeth, jaws and blood. It was an amazing thing to be a part of, and we were fortunate enough to capture some of the intensity of the fight between two male Hippo.
The reason for this battle was for access to and control of a very important and well situated waterhole on the reserve, and within this waterhole, a group of at least 10 females. Prime real estate for any male Hippo.
The fight played out for many hours and eventually there was one winner, the other male ended up leaving the waterhole, head held low with the knowledge that today was not his day.
Photographic Tip: For this sighting, we were fortunate to have great light, but in order to capture images and freeze motion it is important to ensure your shutter speed is high, and for this at least 1/1000sec to freeze the motion as well as water spray.
Written and Photographed by: Mike Sutherland