Animals, particularly males, are often fighting for dominance. Dominance over females and dominance of territory. It is a tale as old as time that younger stronger males sometimes decide to take their chances and chase a dominant male from his territory.
This story that follows is the amazing sighting we caught whilst at Pios Crossing in the Sand River, of a bull hippo losing his precious stretch of river.
As we were crossing the river we got a warning charge by a bull hippo with the resident dominant bull in the distance making his way to the water from the embankment. I recognised this charging bull as new since he was missing a canine tooth, a feature not seen in any of the others in this pod. The older, resident dominant bull charged his way forward towards this intruder with an unfamiliar grunting sound. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing – a fight was imminent! Finally, now face to face, the bulls clashed with wide open gaping mouths. Jumping, pushing and fighting, each sought to prove who was stronger, and who should rightfully rule this stretch of water. Sadly, succumbing to the realisation that he was the weaker one, the previously dominant bull turned around and showed his back to the other bull. With this move the younger bull began biting at the older bull’s flanks and drew blood.
Tired and feeling defeated, the older bull began to make his way to the river embankment, the younger bull then gave chase and pushed him completely out the water onto land.
Because hippos are territorial in the water they will protect an area and allow the presence of females and juveniles but will not tolerate another large bull. Therefore, with this move of forcing the dominant bull out he has won the territory.
The older bull will now likely move onto another part of the reserve far away and continue to live his life in solitude. This was quite a touching moment as this once dominant bull who would have been successful in protecting his territory for a number of years, walked away as the loser.
I, as well as two other guides, got the opportunity to visit our Zimbabwean colleagues at Singita Pamushana. What an incredible place to visit and what a great experience it was seeing the different landscapes and terrain. The mountains that occupy the property are mind-blowing as well as the open grasslands. The area has got a lot of diversity with regards to terrain, thus allowing for multiple different species to roam the area. We went on two game drives a day for two weeks and never was one drive even close to being the same.
After guiding for several years, there is wish list that starts to grow on what you would like to see or experience whilst being in the wild on a daily basis. I am privileged to have the opportunity to work daily in the bush, whether its sharing my love and passion for the bushveld with guests or taking a leisurely walking trail on my own. In my capacity of being the resident photographer for Singita, it has afforded many opportunities. The safari wish list is endless, whether it is adding to a bird list, seeing an elephant up close or a nocturnal creature like a honey badger – there is a thrill of ticking sightings off the list.
I started my career at Singita in the Kruger National Park. I loved the area; it was wild, full of surprises and pure remote wilderness. When I started guiding in the area, general wildlife viewing was plentiful with a strong abundance of lion that dominated the area as the main predator. There were a few leopard sightings that were reported, particularly that we were able to identify; however they were slowly habituating to the vehicles as we explored the remoteness of the area. The leopards soon realized that we were not a threat and as the guides maintained a comfortable distance from the elusive predators, this enabled being able to recognise certain individuals or watch behavioural indicators that would warrant maintaining a distance or permitting a closer view.
There is a beauty, a drive and a spirit in the art of tracking. When you come across the foot prints of an animal and step down from the vehicle to investigate, there is a sense of aliveness and a feeling that brings you right back down to earth. It gives you an understanding, one that creeps into your body and your mind, you take hold of what feels like the spirit of the animal and you move in the steps it has taken in its past.