We setup camp on the remote island in the middle of the Zambezi river. As I ate my dinner, the gruff laugh of hippos became an endless background noise. I watched them as I ate. There must have been over ten hippos relaxing in the river near camp, bellowing to each other.
Unfortunately, my DSLR camera was completely out of battery and I hadn't bought a spare with me so all I was left with was my little iPhone 4s for photography. Therefore, please excuse the poor picture quality!
The tents were all setup and we retreated to them for the night. This was to be our first night of truly wild camping as the first campsite had toilets. The only toilet here was a hole that you dug. After experiencing no issues on my first night, I was feeling relaxed. Emily said that if I did need the toilet in the night that she was accompany me, just in case.
The moment came when I needed the loo. All I could hear was the moaning of hippos from all angles. I tried to guess how far away they were and concluded that it was fine as long as I didn't venture that far from the tent. I gently shook Emily who woke up almost immediately. We put on our head-torches and ventured outside into the unknown.
The sky was aglow with stars, untainted by any light pollution. I'd never seen so many stars in my life. The stars were all I could see, however. We started to move away from camp. Nowhere seemed suitable. I felt like if I stayed too near camp that someone would see me but in hindsight that was probably the best thing to do. I kept going until suddenly there was a terrific roar. Bleary-eyed, I only then noticed a massive mass of grey in front of me, the outline of a large hippo only a few metres ahead.
There was no time to think. Emily and I turned and ran. I could here the thundering of feet through sand behind me as the hippo gave chase. It probably stopped shortly after but I was convinced it followed us all the way to our tent. We scuttled inside as quick as we could, panting and terrified. We heard a few more defiant roars as if the hippo was telling us to stay away.
The worst part of it was that I still hadn't been to the loo and I was desperate. Emily fell back to sleep fairly quickly but the ache in my bladder kept me up. I listened and listened, hoping the hippos would leave but they didn't. I got so desperate, I contemplated using a bottle but then got too grossed-out by the idea and stayed put.
Dawn broke at 5am and finally the hippos quietened down. I sheepishly opened the tent and saw that the guides were already awake and lighting the fire. I scuttled over to them and told them of my nightly encounter. One laughed at me and merely said, "hippos don't chase." I may never know if the hippo actually chased me although I was pretty convinced it did, if only briefly. Anyway, having been given the 'all okay', I finally went to the loo.