Tanda Tula - hippo in the river on safari in the Timbavati, South Africa
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If I had come back as an animal...

Chad Cocking | Wildlife

During my tens of thousands of hours watching African wildlife, a thought that has often crossed my mind is “if I could come back as an animal, which animal would it be?”

This is a difficult question, as there are just so many to choose from; and none are without their short-comings.  Obviously a leopard would be amazing (what’s not to like about being the sexiest animal in the bush and just chilling high up in a tree all day?). Yes, you would have people flashing their cameras at you non-stop, but Justin Bieber seems to cope with that just fine.  This would be a marvellous life for me, if only I wasn’t horribly afraid of heights!  This fact also excludes me from choosing to be a bushbaby, but I’m not complaining too much, because even though I would be dead cute, I would also have to pee on my hands…often…so, no.  Porcupines are desirable too; they get a mate for life and get to mate every single day!  The problem with this is that, well, they are porcupines, and they have to mate every…single…day!  “How do porcupines mate?” the old joke goes, with the answer being “very, very carefully”.

I love my sleep.  A lot.  And so do lions.  A lot.  So they would make a brilliant animal to come back as!  Imagine sleeping for three-quarters of your life and not get moaned at by your mom and dad for being a lazy sod?  This idea suited me well – as did the idea of tucking into an 850kg buffalo steak (albeit it a bit on the raw side) – until I recently spent a few days watching a pride of lions eating one such buffalo; all I can say is that I would rather eat pattypan marrows for the rest of my life than ever smell that buffalo again!

Tanda Tula - Mbiri male lions sleeping in the Greater Kruger

I would never do well as a vegetarian, but there is something strangely appealing about eating for 16 hours a day, isn’t there?  Imagine eating 200kg of chocolate every single day?  Or 200kg of potato chips, all flavours, all day!  This is the wonderfully gluttonous life that every elephant leads and, best of all, you don’t have to worry about those pesky lions eating you either.  The only minor issue is that elephants don’t eat chocolate or chips.  They just eat grass and wood; dry grass and wood to be exact.  That seems a tad boring to do all day, don’t you think?

Tanda Tula - elephant feeding on the best safari in South Africa

So what else is there to be?  A giraffe perhaps, but being tall is cool and all, except when you have to drink, which, when I last checked, was a rather important activity?  Impalas get eaten all the time and baboons aren’t even allowed to beg for bananas anymore without getting into trouble.  This leaves me with only option; if I were to come back as an animal, it would have to be a hippopotamus.  You get the best of many worlds, from sleeping the whole day to eating the whole night, hardly anybody wants to eat you, you don’t have to worry about your weight, and people respect and fear you even if they have hardly ever seen more than your eyes, ears and nose.  Plus, if that is not enough, you get to just chill out in a river for a living catching a tan.  The only down side I can see is that, for an animal that lives in the water for most of its life, you would have thought someone would have at least taught them to swim!

Tanda Tula - drinking giraffe in the Timbavati

Tanda Tula - hippo resting on a hot day in the Timbavati

Tanda Tula - hippo on safari in the Greater Kruger

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