After orientation, I arranged a canoe trip up the Niger River to look for hippos in their natural habitat. It turned out that quite a few people attending orientation needed to do some shopping while in the big city and Saturday was the only day they could do it. Another had ended up in the "emergency room" (I use that term loosely) the night before orientation started and that person and several others helping care for him were also unable to come. And some had already done this, so it turned out to be John and I, the Kim family, the Rupnows, and Christoph.
We entered a large, what might be described as a dug-out canoe. In French it is a pirogue and in Songhai it is a hi (pronounced hee). The pirogue had cushions on which we reclined. Overhead were grass mats to protect us from the sun. There was an outboard motor on it to get us upstream faster. The boat man also used a pole to steer the boat whenever we were close to shore.
Along the way we saw quite a variety of birds. One tree was filled with egrets and herons. We also saw these black and white quail-type of birds. I have no idea what they are called!
The river is full of water hyacinths. The Kim children had a great time catching them and pulling them out of the water as we went by.
Finally we came upon the hippos. I think we found three different groups of them, but I got a bit confused as to whether or not we had circled around an island and came upon the same group or not. Don't worry, we're not as close as we appear. I have a good telephoto lens and our boat man was very cautious. He had a very healthy fear of hippos, who can be very dangerous!
The trip was a lot of fun, but got a bit long. Originally the boat man told me he'd take us up to a village that had a market and we could get out and explore there and then he'd take us back to the starting point. But we'd seen the hippos and the children were getting hungry (note to self: take snacks next time) and we were all tired from a busy week, so we asked him to take us back before we ever got to the village.