While many choose luxury lodges positioned close to rivers and waterholes, the luxury houseboats, the Shayamanzi l and the Shayamanzi ll provide an unusual opportunity to look at some of our most spectacular species from a whole different point of view.
The legendary lake Jozini is one of South Africa’s oldest wildlife havens. Surrounded by the luxury of the upstairs lounge and bar, bobbing in the large onboard Jacuzzi or languishing in a luxury cabin peeking out over the water’s edge, guests might even spot a fish jumping, a family of elephants frolicking in the shallows or hear the throaty grunt of a wallowing hippo.
Elephants and hippos are probably the two animals that you are most likely to see.
The magnificent – and even sometimes comical – hippopotamus (ancient Greek for river horse) is probably your closest neighbour aboard the Shayamanzi! They are most often seen in the water, usually in large groups or pods.
Most of the time, they resemble large groups of rocks with only part of their backs or heads visible above the surface of the lake. Interestingly, these massive animals cannot swim or even float. They walk along the surface of the lake so that they can stay submerged throughout the day in order to protect their sensitive skins from the harsh African sun. Believe it or not, the main reason that hippos stay in the water is that, because their skin is unable to sweat, they are prone to overheating.
Hippos are scuba divers par excellence. They can hold their breath for about seven minutes. Even when sleeping, they resurface to breathe. In order to avoid taking in water, they close their nostrils and ears to prevent water from entering. This certainly helps the little calves when they are suckling underwater.
Another thing for which hippos are best known is their large yawns and characteristic deep grunting sounds. This is usually a means of warning off others. Hippos are very territorial and the male in charge of a family group can even fight to the death to protect his harem. The shape and grunting of hippos is what has probably made most people think that their closest domestic relative is the pig. Nothing could be further from the truth – they are actually closer relatives of whales and porpoises.
With their sharp teeth (larger in males), hippos are known to be one of the most dangerous animals in Africa. It’s not advisable to cross their paths on land – especially if you are between them and their beloved water. However, they have also been known to attack boats which is why the staff aboard the Shayamanzi are well trained to make sure that our guests can view these grumpy giants from a safe distance!
Hippos live for about 40 years. Their main diet is grass and they can consume up to 35kg of this when they come out at night to graze. They can weigh anything from 1.4 to five tons and are the largest land mammal after elephants and white rhino.
The graceful African elephants that you will probably get to see slurping up water from the shoreline, frolicking in the shallows or crossing the lake using their trunks as snorkels – are one of the legendary big five.
Elephants travel in family groups with a large matriarch in charge. The large males – known as bulls – only tend to join up with the females when they are ready to mate. Otherwise, they are loners or move about in small groups with the larger and older bulls playing an important role in disciplining the more wayward youngsters.
Elephants are probably most associated with having good memories – and this is far more than a fairy tale. Herd leaders pass centuries worth of information down the generations. Elephants are also known for their massive brains. They are super communicators and not only use their signature trumpeting but also a wide range of low rumbles, some of which are not even audible to humans.
This communication is integral to elephant families which are extremely close knit. If any member of an elephant family is hurt or threatened in any way, they gather round to help. They also express their affection by linking trunks or “trunk hugging” other members of the herd.
Elephant moms have the longest pregnancies when compared to any other mammal. They carry their young for 22 months and, after birth, their babies stay with their moms for up to 10 years. The lifespan of the average elephant can be up to 70 years.
Again, although our staff enjoy giving our guests a special view of our elephant neighbours, that are also extremely careful and treat those who share Lake Jozini with us with the utmost respect. On land, elephants can run at up to 40km an hour and there’s lots of evidence of just how much damage a single ellie can do to a car!
So, join us and enjoy viewing both hippos and elephants from the safety and comfort of the Shayamanzi. Remember that, even though our hippos seem plentiful, their numbers are declining. Our elephants have put up with ongoing slaughter for centuries for their beautiful tusks. Today, there are less than 400 000 left in the world.
Be sure to book your stay aboard the Shayamanzi l or ll.
For more information, go to www.shayamanzi.co.za