Hippos are the world’s second-largest land mammals. Like the world’s largest land mammals, the elephants, hippos are natives of Africa.
While hippos are found in most wetlands of Sub-Saharan Africa, especially Eastern and Southern Africa, there are certain sites where you can easily spot them without a fuss
8 Best Places to See Hippos in Africa
8. Gola Forest, Sierra Leone – pygmy hippos
We begin with the rarest species of hippos – the pygmy hippos. Pygmy hippos<1>are native of West Africa, primarily Liberia and Sierra Leone. They are much smaller in size compared to those found in the Eastern and Southern Africa and extremely nocturnal. This means you can hardly see them during the day. Gola Forest<2>, cutting across Liberia and Sierra Leone, is the world’s only remaining natural habitat for pygmy hippos. This is the only location in the world where you can spot this unique species of hippos in its own natural environment.
7. Kenya Wetlands
Kenya is believed to the original home of the oldest ancestor of hippos – the Kenyapotamus<3>. Scientists consider Kenyapotamus to be the ancestor of all hippopotamus species found in Africa. Most of the hippos are believed to have spread to the rest of Africa via various rivers spreading from the Lake Victoria Basin – world’s second largest freshwater body source. As such, hippos are widely spread in Kenya’s freshwater points. Some of the famous water points include Maasai Mara National Reserve <4>(Mara River) Mwea National Reserve<5>, and Amboseli National Park<6>. There are also widespread populations of hippos along the shores of Lake Victoria<7>.
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6. Liwonde National Park, Malawi
Liwonde National Park<8> is located in southern parts of Malawi. Shire River passes through this park as it drains into Lake Malawi. Shire River within this park has one of the highest concentrations of hippos in southern Africa. You can actually find a hippo after every 20-30m along this stretch within the National Park. The advantage of the Liwonde National Park is that you can easily spot all the Big 3 Grey Mammals – Elephants, Rhinos and Hippos within the same locality. Shire River is also navigable. This means that you can spot hippos up-close as you ride on a boat.
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5. Kruger National Park, South Africa
Kruger National Park<9> is the most famous game park in South Africa. It has a huge population of hippos. Recently, the National Park engaged in curling activities in order to control the huge population due to increased scarcity of vegetation as a result of a long drought. Kruger National Park boasts of well-kept driving tracks within the game reserve. This makes it easy to access most places within the park plus you get an opportunity to view other species of African wild including the famous Kruger ostriches. There are also the Big 5 land mammals.
4. Kazinga Channel, Uganda
Kazinga Channel <10> is a place with the world’s highest concentration of hippos. Kazinga Channel is located within Queen Elizabeth National Park<11> - one of the most beautiful national parks in Uganda. Kaziga Channel is a 32-mile long channel that connects two freshwater lakes – Lake George and Lake Albert – both part of the greater Lake Victoria Basin whose most of its excess waters empties into River Nile. There are plenty of boat cruise services along the channel which allows you the closest view of these densely concentrated hippos.
3. Okavango Delta, Botswana
Okavango Delta is one of the most important wetlands in the largely arid Botswana. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site<12> that is located in North-Western Botswana. It boasts of a wide species of wildlife, including the Big 3 Grey land mammals – elephants, rhinos, and hippos. Famously billed as the ‘Eden of Africa’, Okavango Delta has rich biodiversity unmatched elsewhere in Southern Africa. On a tour of Okavango Delta, you can be sure to watch not just the Big 3 Grey Mammals but also most of the Big 5 land mammals. In addition, you can also encounter some of Africa’s most indigenous communities such as the Khoisan people, who happens to be the natives of Southern Africa – especially Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa.
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2. St. Lucia Estuary - iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa
St. Lucia is a town that is almost completely surrounded by water. At one end of it rests the St. Lucia Estuary, which is located within the hippo-rich iSimangaliso Wetland Park<13>. This park is located within the historically rich Kwazulu Natal province of South Africa. St. Lucia Estuary provides the highest concentration of hippos in South Africa. Within the Estuary, there are boats which one can hire a ride to see some of these spectacular hippos which are extraordinarily black and huge. It is also not uncommon to encounter a hippo on the street of St. Lucia town while driving. Thus, it is always important to be cautious, especially at night.
1. Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Serengeti National Park<14> is part of the expansive Mara-Serengeti ecosystem. Located in the Northern Tanzania region bordering Kenya, Serengeti National Park is famous for wildebeest migration. However, it has a rich diversity of wildlife species that makes it the best safari destination in the world. Near wetlands, which are plenty in this park, you can easily spot hippos playing within the water points as they seek to cool their skin. One of the famous sites to spot a large group of hippos is the Retina Pool, Serengeti.
Africa, the world’s second-largest continent is home to Hippopotamus, the world’s second-biggest land mammal. Africa is the only place on earth where you can see hippos in their natural habitat. Your tour of Africa cannot be complete without a tour of one of the 8 best places to see hippos in Africa.
<1> Pygmy Hippos of West Africa <2> Gola Forest <3> Kenyapotamus <4> Maasai Mara National Reserve <5> Mwea National Reserve <6> Amboseli National Park <7> Lake Victoria <8> Chobe National Park <9> Kruger National Park <10> Kazinga Channel <11> Queen Elizabeth National Park <12> Okavango Delta UNESCO <13> iSimangaliso Wetland Park <14> Serengeti National Park