Jessica’s Godmother Pays a Visit

Hippo Mojo recently learned of a fabulous trip taken by Margaret Martin, self-styled godmother to famous and tame hippo Jessica of South Africa. Margaret was kind enough to share an account of her adventure with us.

I am the Godmother of a hippopotamus! You did hear me correctly. My Godchild is Jessica The Hippo you may know from the Animal Planet documentary by the same name.

Just recently, I returned from a trip to So. Africa to celebrate her ninth birthday. It’s hard to believe she is such a big girl now. In fact, her forays into the house have been impaired by the fact it is now a very tight squeeze for her to make it through the door. I guess that was inevitable. She now weighs about a ton.

Just about a month before I left for my VERY long journey half way around the world, I sent a package of goodies for my dear friends Tonie and Shirley Joubert who are Jessica’s human Mom and Dad. Among the gifts was a cute hippo shaped cake pan I found on eBay. Shirley baked a beautiful chocolate cake and set it on the counter to cool while I made some Rice Krispies and marshmallow treats for Jessica. She loves marshmallows. That hippo loves anything sweet. She has a really big sweet tooth. Anyway, I went off to bed. When I got up in the morning there was the cake on the counter covered with this gooey mess. I do realize this is a “you had to be there” storie, but picture this cake with chocolate icing running down the sides. I just stared at it and finally asked, “What happened to the cake?” I am not quite sure what Shirley’s answer was because we were laughing too hard. But, I do think I mentioned that it would have been a good idea to let the icing cool before putting it on the cake. All I can say is it is a good thing that looks cannot change the taste and that Jessica is not a cake decorating aficionado. It was a funny moment and I am sorry I did not think to take a photo.

I arrived in Hoedspruit, where Jessica lives, two days after I left Oregon, but I was wide awake and anxious to get to their home in the African bush to meet my baby girl in person. What an incredible creature. I am quite sure she may be an angel sent from the heavens to spread love and joy to all she meets, and she meets a lot of people. They come from all over the world on a pilgrimage to visit this amazing hippo. Each are touched in a very special way and the experience has changed them for life. Everyday I was there, people came to feed her corn and give her tea. Tonie will give a bottle to different people and Jessica will go from one to the other drinking a little at a time so to give everyone a chance to feed her. She sounds like a washing machine when she drinks. When the tea is gone she likes to suck on the bottle until she is so full of air she actually rises higher in the water.

She will spend much of the day in her river, but comes up for afternoon tea and corn, and then back again in the evening for bed. When she wakes up in the morning she goes off to the river, but comes back for her morning breakfast. As she approaches the house, she grunts out her greetings which are followed by a series of vocalizations I can only compare to a horse whinny. Tonie, Shirley and Jess talk to each other like they understand each word, and I am not all together sure they do not. Jessica is tri-lingual. She speaks hippo, English and Afrikaans. They tend to speak Afrikaans to her.

She has many dog pals in her family. They are all bull terriers. I am not sure if Jessica just thinks of them a very small hippos. They love her. The minute she lays on her mattress at bed time, they climb all over her as if they had just conquered Everest. One evening one of them got stuck between Jessica and the house which sent Tonie out to the rescue. He was a little squashed, but none the worse for wear. The price one pays for sleeping next to a hippopotamus.

Jessica does live in the wild, and she makes forays to visit the nearby hippo pod. She even has had a couple of gentlemen callers. Now that she is reaching maturity, Tonie and Shirley are hoping to become Grandparents. That will be a special moment.

Even though the Joubert home is in the middle of a very large game farm, Jessica shows no sign of leaving home. Hippos are very family orientated animals and Jess has a wonderful thing going. Nightly massages, a comfortable mattress, great food and a very devoted family. That little hippo is not going anywhere.

Tonie is a man of many talents, built there lovely home and another large structure that is referred to as the Tree House. Maybe that is because part of it is actually built into the trees. It is incredible. They at times, use it as a Bed & Breakfast. Should any of you make the journey to South Africa to meet Jessica, be sure to ask if you can stay at the Tree House should you be planning to stay in the area.

The city of Hoedspruit is the gateway to the famous Kruger National Park. One of South Africa’s crown jewels. I did not take the time to go there on this trip because I was sooooo focused on Jessica, but I do understand it is a wonderful showcase of African wildlife. The Joubert’s game farm is full of wonderful wildlife as well. Recently a baby giraffe was born there. The farm is part of the natural migration path for animals going in and out of Kruger.

There is also a 1400 year old Baobab tree on the farm. Wow, it is really big. You could set up residence in one of them. I come from California and have seen the giant Redwoods many times, but some Baobabs could possibly be larger in circumference. Not taller, but maybe some of them are as big around. That is saying something since I have driven a car through a carved out Redwood. I had wanted to see a Baobab since I was in grade school. There had been a photo of one in our geography book. I was impressed then, and I am even more impressed now that I have seen one up close.

When it came time to leave I was naturally very sad. Shortly after I boarded the small commuter plane to return to Johannesburg’s International Airport, we climbed above the clouds. I noticed that some were spiking quite high. Several hundred feet into the air. I rested my head back and closed my eyes trying not to cry. For some reason I opened them and looked out the window to see this huge cloud shooting upward. To one side there appeared a perfectly shaped hippo head. Eye, ears, nostrils and mouth. You would have thought it had been carved from marble by one of the Masters. I just could not believe my eyes. I was very angry at myself for having packed the camera thinking there was nothing left to take pictures of. That was too bad. It would have been a million dollar shot. I really do not care what other people might think, but I am sure it was Jessica saying goodbye and telling me that she would be forever in my heart. And, she will be.

Well, I have taken up a lot of your time, but I wanted you to hear about my wonderful trip. Should any of you make it to So. Africa, be sure to stop in for a visit with Jessica. You heart will be touched by an angle and that is an experience you will that will stay with you for a lifetime. She is truly one of God’s chosen ones.

Best Regards,
Margaret Martin