Last Sunday we spent the day alongside the Niger River at a campsite that several families rent together year-round. It is about 30 minutes outside the city, crossing vast expanses of desert wasteland, garbage-laden bushes and trees, dust-covered roads, and primitive mud-hut houses and ramshackle settlements. It is sobering, the reality of this poverty-stricken country in plain view. The Mango camp, so named for the many mango trees providing shade, is riverside and lovely. Not exactly Lake Chelan or the mighty Columbia river, mind you, but who’s comparing? There was a grill for lunch and the kids could climb the trees easily, while the adults visited or simply enjoyed the peace.
Hippos are really really really really really BIG. Let me tell you how we found out. We took a little boat trip to find the hippos – something they do often around here. Apparently they haven’t seen the same episodes on Animal Planet depicting these creatures as unpredictable man-killers? Anyway, we went along with it….for the adventure. After tooling around the somewhat shallow waters for about 30 minutes and not finding the beasts, (although I have to mention that we did find an entire herd of cattle grazing in the shallow waters) our driver suggested going further south, although he didn’t know those waters as well…but he thought they might find the family of hippos there. (I was getting slightly uncomfortable, but not wanting to appear the wimpy mom, didn’t say anything). We saw beautiful African birds everywhere, remote villages along the shores, families bathing and washing, men working the fields, or simply resting in pumpkin boats…it was a slice of African life I never would have seen had we not ventured this way!
Still the hippos eluded us. (All this time I wondered if they were right underneath us, ready to pop up! I seriously have watched those crazy animal shows!) We were almost ready to turn back when we spotted them – ON LAND – on an island about 125 yards away from us! Glory! This was what we were waiting for! Two “smaller” ones were in the water, and two large ones were on land, standing and moving around. It was incredible! We slowly drifted a wee bit closer, boat driver being cautious, I’m internally freaking out while taking pictures, and the hippos not noticing us. Then “BIG GUY” stands up on land near the now-medium-sized ones standing on the water’s edge. Seriously, I thought that it was a huge rocky part of the landscape until HE stood up! They all seemed to notice our presence and wimpy mom starts to sweat…uh, what are they going to do? Boat driver says (with a touch of nervousness, I might add) that it was time to go. Uh, ya. We reverse and the hippos stealthily slip into the water. Oh great – now we don’t know where they are! I’ve seen this on Animal Planet, people! They run like horses on the river bottoms! I am pretty sure we all were thinking the same thing – LET’S GET OUT OF HERE!!!
Our boat driver skillfully maneuvered his way through the shallow waters, only grounding us once, retreating to a safe distance from the dreaded man-killers of African rivers! And I have some pretty cool photos to prove I am adventurous-mom, not wimpy mom!
11 thoughts on “Mango Camp and Hippos”
Cows and birds and HIPPOS, oh my!!!! What an adventure! Would love to see more photos! Love you!
Oh, Nikki, I absolutely LOVE reading about your adventures! Know that you’re in my thoughts and prayers often… Marci 🙂
Thanks Marci! I wanted to tell you that we started with our language tutor this week — a Nigerien who speaks several languages. Now i have tons of homework! he typically trains the peace corps who enter the country and need quick tutelage, so we are going by topics and key verbs. You know better than anyone what language study requires so pray for me! Hugs to you from Africa – Nik
Love love love this 🙂 Really enjoying your blog — I hope you continue to have time for it. — Also, we would love to send you guys a package. What kinds of things would be fun to receive, maybe are hard to find there? Can you send me your mailing address?
Hi Nicole! I realized that I replied to you via fb and didn’t give you our address… it is BP 10065, Niamey, Niger Republic. Love you! Nik
What an adventure!! Amazing memories to last a life time! Love and Prayers!
Lauren and Forest loved the story about the hippos 🙂 love you!!!! You are such a great writer Nikki!
Love the blog! How exciting to hear about your adventures. Grace has a little something she wanted to send to Ruthie. Since it is cheaper to send the one-rate box, I was wondering if you have any requests? It would be a shame to send it anything but stuffed full : )
Shari! How fun to hear from you! How is your precious family? It would be such a blast to receive a package — it does take a while, but is worth it since everything here is so ..well, African! I know the kids would love to have koolaid or candy, or maybe stickers and paper to draw on? Our kids have been champs with “doing without” and they know we didn’t come here to have it easy. Any little treat will be met with wild squeals, so be creative! (With you that should be natural!) Consider yourself hugged — but it is sweaty since it is HOT here right now! Phew! Love you, Nikki
We are busy but doing well! These kids keep us on our toes : ) Megan (the 3 year old) has taken to climbing lately and has given me mild heart attacks – the dresser, bookshelves, etc. Anyway, we will have fun packing a box for you! Is there anything you and Andy would like? Starbucks Via packets? If I could do Fred Meyer or Target-in-a-box, I would, LOL!