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Natural World

  • Season 38
  • 10 episodes
  • Nature

Episode 2: Hippos: Africa's River Giants


David Attenborough reveals the life of the hippopotamus as never seen before. The programme gets closer than ever to an animal that cannot swim yet is utterly dependent on water. In Botswana's Okavango delta, hippos face an unparalleled challenge - deep floodwaters dry to dust in a matter of months. In one extraordinary season, cameras go beneath the surface to see them protect their families and face enemies as they deal with the drought. Going far beyond their dangerous reputation, the programme discovers the true nature of the hippo, an animal that is compassionate, sensitive and highly intelligent.


The theory behind this lovely documentary is that hippos make the vast Okavango swamp in Botswana what it is. They shape the swamp and they rule the waterways and pools. The whole ecosystem is a hippocracy, you could say, and one of the joys of the film is seeing the tetchy interactions between hippos and other residents.

We see a shirty hippo gawping at an elephant; confusing a leopard by sleeping under its tree; acting as take-off platform for an eagle; even in one scene seeing off a group of hungry lions. Basically, in any face-off between hippo and interloper, bet on the hippo.

But as well as the drama captured here, the photography is splendid, so we get an intimate sense of hippos’ lives above and below water, the different expressions in those bulbous eyes, the cross hatchings and stipplings on their hides. And, of course, the whimsical sweetness of a newborn calf.

How to watch



Colour | HD | SUB | WIDE



PresenterDavid Attenborough


DirectorBrad Bestelink
ProducerLaura Marshall
ProducerLucy Meadows

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