Hippo has the last laugh

“Hi, I’m Delicious!” Salufo Limbo was holding out his hand in greeting. He called himself Delicious when he was 14, he explained, after seeing the word for tasty and all things nice in a dictionary. He was about to take us on a cruise down the river Kwando, on the banks of which Lianshulu Lodge nestles, in Caprivi.

It’s difficult to find work these days, even with grade 12. Delicious started out as a home based care volunteer for the Red Cross, in an area where HIV and AIDS have hit hard. After that he worked as facilitator for family literacy with the Ministry of Education, but field work had always been his passion. So when Balyerwa Conservancy paid for him to attend a tour guiding course, he had high hopes of a job in the tourism industry.

As we get into the boat we hear the hippos grunting, hauh, hauh, hauh. For days we have been wondering what they were laughing about. Later on, we would find out.

Balyerwa is one of 14 communal conservancies in Caprivi Region, part of KAZA, the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area. With the support of the WWF and IRDNC: Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation, conservancies are linking up with conservation partners in the other four KAZA countries, especially Zambia and Botswana, to promote conservation through tourism.

The tour guiding course at IRDNC’s Sijwa’s training centre was funded by the Millennium Challenge account (MCA) and given by NATH, the Namibian Academy for Tourism and Hospitality. Delicious graduated with level 2, and is hoping to return to do level 3. His study paid off handsomely, as he now has a job at Lianshulu Lodge with which he can support his wife and two children.

These days, more and more tourists want local guides, especially in conservancy areas where they expect the authentic Namibian touch. Delicious does not disappoint. His knowledge of local wildlife, and especially of the river birds, is extensive. “Look at the Bee-Eaters,” he explains. “See the flame coloured breast? The bird sits up and exposes it to the sunlight, so that insects mistake it for a flower and fly in close, where they are a ready meal.”

A bird makes a complicated loop over the water and snaps a large buzzing insect in its beak. A hippo grunts, and Delicious tells us a story:

Once upon a time Hippo used to be on land. All the other animals laughed at him. “Why are you so fat,” they asked. “Why are you so short and ugly?” Hippo was sad, and asked God if he could join the river animals in the water. “Certainly not,” said God. “You’ll eat all the fish!”

Hippo promised he would not eat any fish, and to prove it he would open his mouth very wide so God could look in and see that it was empty. To this day he keeps his promise, and only goes onto land to graze on the grass at night, when he can’t be seen by the other animals who were so cruel to him.

And the hippo’s laugh? The joke is that all the other animals are drinking the river water in which Hippo has been for a poo. Hauh, hauh, hauh.

Steve Felton
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