Burundi - Unexpected Hippo Lake

Spotting Hippo among people is easy

Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi, what a nice surprise! Never ever would I have expected that I can see wild hippos swimming in an open lake right in front of a normal restaurant between boats, guests, and fishermen.

May 30 - Arriving peacefully in Bujumbura

Map of Africa and Burundi

Is Burundi dangerous to visit?

Warnings for traveling to Burundi are on most travel pages on the internet. News on the internet about Burundi and Bujumbura, all tell me it's not a nice place to visit. Surely they are right about it, but considered that I will be there only for three days, the chance is small that I will be stuck in a new incoming conflict or a street bombing in Bujumbura city center.

Being in western Europe these days seems to be a much higher risk of becoming a victim of some terrorist attack.

Arriving in Bujumbura

Not many flights that afternoon in Bujumbura airport and also on my flight from Kigali (Rwanda), there weren't so many people. It's a small and quiet airport. So immigration at the Bujumbura airport was fast and easy. But maybe this comes with the cost of applying for the mandatory visa upfront back home. The organized taxi also was waiting there already and gave me a short tour through downtown capital Bujumbura to exchange money, before dropping me off at the hotel with aircon. Aircon, a working aircon. My Burundi trip started perfectly!

Map of Bujumbura:
Tourist Map Bujumbura and best area for visit

First monument or advertisement campaign for an election that is visible when coming from the airport. Due to the scratches on the right one, I assume people don't like him that much.
First monument in Bujumbura when entering the city

Green, White, Red. These national colors are visible everywhere in Bujumbura.

Lots of people are fleeing from Burundi since months and years because of the threat of new civil wars. No wonder it has a huge UNHCR refugee agency.
Huge UNHCR building in Bujumbura

Video: Bujumbura central market

May 31 - Hippos are free to walk the city

My plan for today was walking as much as possible through Bujumbura and the biggest enemy in this were NOT some robbers or terrorists, but the heat already in the early morning. And of course, the hippos, which were robbers of my time in Burundi. Did I know that there are hippos living in a public lake, right at the shores all over of lake Tanganyika and not being shy of human, I would have planned only one day for observing these funny animals. The best thing is that they are not in captivity and can walk wherever they want - like stray dogs :)

Starting to walk in Bujumbura.
Central Bujumbura

Hopefully, open air working desks also will become more trendy in Europe :)
Daily life in Bujumbura

That's the first IKEA in Burundi.

Hippos are criminals

Not knowing what I'm going to face here in the beginning. I actually was looking for having a coffee and a bottle of water and came along this restaurant. After resting for a minute I realized that there is something in the water and I shrugged when I spotted the hippos swimming there, just three meters in front of me. I saw many youtube videos about hippos and they are among the most dangerous animals on the planet. Totally unpredictable, fast, strong, aggressive - the perfect human enemy. 

I ended up spending already too much time sitting in that restaurant for observing the funny looking hippos. And my conclusions about these bastard hippos is, they are criminals! They are robbers of time, as its fascinating to watch them and time flows by like nothing:)

The restaurant Cercle Nautique de Bujumbura, at Lake Tanganyika.

Cercle Nautique de Bujumbura

This hippo comes towards the restaurant.
Lake Tanganyika in Bujumbura has many hippos

They swim between boats and the restaurant because here they have lots of grass.
They can feel any vibtation in the water

Burundi Hippos very close

Fine crafted wooden Hippos and crocodiles which exist in the lake

At the entrance of the Nautica restaurant

Eating and watching hippos. Does humanity need anything more :)?
The lake is natural border to the DRC

Drinking cola and coffee and watching hippo. A perfect opportunity to waste time.
The best restaurant in Bujumbura

Proof: Fishermen in Burundi don't watch youtube

After watching these hippos in the morning and coming back in the afternoon, I noticed that there are fishermen working just right next to the hippo territory. Are they nuts? No, certainly not. They probably just don't have so much time or opportunity to watch youtube, where its basically impossible to not come along movies, where hippos are chasing or attacking things. Most movies on youtube tell us that hippos are among the most dangerous animals on the planet and that there is a fact, that most people in Africa who got killed by animals, were killed by hippos. No wonder, hippos are fast on land and in water. Once they decide to attack, the chance its game over is big.

Talking with some people about it, they just tell me

Nah, the Hippos here are not dangerous!

They also told me that sometimes in the evening, when the restaurant has many guests and is playing music, the hippos walk up to the shore beside the restaurant and walk towards the main streets. Cause there is a quiet place with trees, bushes, and grass to eat for them. Then they walk back to the water and don't care if humans are around. Interestingly, no accident happened so far.

Fishermen (right side of photo) do not care about all that hippos are inside the lake. 

They even once had used one hippo for BBQ

Fishermen on the left. Hippo on the right.
They are fast and fishermen cannot escape fast enough

Hippos are good observers and they attack out no reason

To the Bujumbura City center

Continue walking towards the city center of Bujumbura.

Red is for Blood

Burindi is popular for creating bricks

Nice to ride the two wheels along Lake Tanganyika

THIS barbwire is not to keep people out, its to keep hippos away from Bujumbura town.
Barbwire to keep Hippos as good as possible outside of the Bujumbura City center

Burundi has a crisis going on. These are some remainings from a demonstration.
Interahamwe was present here

A place to relax in Bujumbura

At the shore in the capital

In front of lake Tanganyika. The lake is between DRC and Burundi.
Me at the hippo lake

Burundi clays
Another brick company

Entering Bujumbura downtown
Its getting busy and dusty

Car with Burundi numbers plate.
Old cars all over

Bujumbura downtown
A busy place, like all other African city centers

Central Market of Bujumbura is right next to the soccer stadium

Central butchery. The butchers did NOT like making pictures of their meat from near. Was it because of flies?
The butchers did NOT like making pictures of their meat from near. Was it because of flies?

The destroyed soccer stadium "Prince Rwagasore Stadium", but matches still take place.

Many roadblocks in Bujumbura. 
Roadblock in Bujumbura city center

At the lake to DRC

At the restaurant Nautica

Carefully about the hippos as they are everywhere

June 1 - Hippo follows me, trying to rob my time again!

On the way back to the airport the taxi driver spotted a hippo close to the lakeshore. I asked to stop and let me out, as this Hippo was just 10 meters away from the shore and already some locals were watching it too. The chance that I will be able to make a video and photos of a hippo that tires to hunt down some locals was increasing :).

Unfortunately, the hippo just rested there and dived a bit up and down. I think it was tired of following me in my taxi all the way from the hotel, always trying to steal my time again and I'm sure, this time it even tried to steal my flight :)! I spent again too much time there watching, but thankfully there was not much traffic towards the airport and I got my flight towards Kenya as planned.

Hippos are time robbers

Local observes Hippo at the shore.
Observes the man at the beach

Hippo in Lake Tanganyika. Does it think I don't see it?
It is getting ready or it feels annoyed

Locals watching the hippo. Every moment the hippo can jump and chase the spotters, but nothing happened:)
Everybody is waiting for the hippo to attack


  1. Sven—beautiful pictures of a captivating country! Burundi is a place I’ve never heard of so I was happy to learn about it on your blog. The hippo lake is amazing, just amazing. Hippopotami are incredible animals and pretty bad-ass as well. I recently saw a video of a hippo fighting with a lion (or was it a tiger?) over some food. The hippo sent the poor cat running scared. While I don’t want a hippopotamus for Christmas, I would like some pictures like these.

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