Are there Hippos in the Gambia?

Although most of the large game animals such as giraffe and elephants have been hunted to extinction in The Gambia a long time ago, hippos can still be observed in the protected area of the River Gambia National Park. Its full name, “Hippopotamus” is derived from the ancient Greek meaning a river horse.

Family of Hippos
Hippo in River Gambia National Park

Some facts about Hippos that may surprise you!

At between 1500 and 3000 kilos it’s easy to see why these river horses have a reputation for being dangerous. They are probably the most dangerous land mammals in the world. Being extremely guarded about their space, they will attack anything that wanders into their territory. They can bite down with 200lbs per sq inch, WOW!. At birth, they can weigh up to forty-five kilos. Born underwater means the not so small Hippo baby has to get to the surface for its first breath of air.

Completely hairless its skin is so tough it could literally stop a bullet from a handgun. Their teeth are ivory and never stop growing and can grow to a half a metre in older males.

River Gambia National Park
Family of hippos
Hippo surfacing for air

Big but very social!

Social creatures usually found in herds of between ten to thirty, but herds of two hundred hippos have been recorded. Most people believe that they can swim really fast but strangely hippos can’t swim. They move through the water by walking along the river-bed and would not be comfortable in deep water.

They can hold their breath for up to five minutes which is just as well as they are not buoyant. Pushing themselves to the surface using their back legs when they need air.

Spending sixteen hours a day in water you might imagine they eat fish but you would be wrong. Hippos are herbivores, they spend the day in water to remain cool mostly. Returning to land when the sun has fallen to graze on grasses and plenty of them. Don’t let their size fool you though because a hippo can outrun a human easily. Reaching speeds of up to 25mph they can only sustain that level of exhaustion for perhaps a hundred metres or so.

Among the many things to do at Footsteps, we can arrange a two day guided trip ( with Sarani )to Janjanburreh on Gambia’s North bank. On your trip, you will see hippos, chimps, crocodiles, monkeys and numerous birds. You will also visit Janjanburreh’s slave house and the Wassu Stone Circles which is a world heritage site. Ask about our overnight all inclusive trips or arrange at the lodge during your holiday, the choice is yours!

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