That animal is the saltwater or marine hippopotamus, which alternates its life between mangroves, rivers and lagoons, being those of the Anor region its favorites to spend the beginning of the dry season, taking advantage of the fact that they are still full of water.
That’s where we find ourselves today, and Belmiro asks us for absolute silence. We are approaching an imposing species, which must be protected and respected. Not only because of its situation in danger of extinction, but because it is the emblem of the Orango National Park, and an animal that the animist religion of the Bijagó people venerates. He tells us all this in a low voice as we climb, step by step, to the observatory of the first lagoon, and before he hands us the binoculars that will allow us to see a family that we will never forget.
The green lagoon, full of water lilies, and located in front of the observation center, remains still, until, at a given moment, a colossal head emerges and emits an already unmistakable sound. How lucky we have been! Nature does not understand rules or schedules, and it is not always easy to witness what we are seeing with our privileged eyes.
“The mobile cameras activate the video option and the telephoto lenses point to eyes that shy away from the sun.”
The volume of his body submerged under water indicates his enormous corpulence. Belmiro tells us that male hippopotamuses like this one can reach 4 meters and weigh 3,500 kilos. He is the only one of the herd. The rest of the specimens are females, one of which we see is pregnant. Gestation usually lasts 8 months, and the belly of that future mother shows how a new hippopotamus will soon join this family group.
We could be like this for hours, because the daily routine of this spectacular mammal involves soaking for hours, avoiding the heat of the sun, which damages its fine skin so much. And it will not be until night when they decide to go out, and move, along the same path that we are now retracing, to the beach, stopping to eat the herbs that they find on their way, which due to their voracious appetite can reach up to 100 kilos.
The end of the party for this giant vegetarian, which we sadly say goodbye to before sunset threatens to find him on our return, ends up in the sea, in that ocean that they have learned to love for its fury, its freshness and for its deworming effect.