Nature guide Paul Templer was leading a group down a river near Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls in kayaks when a male hippo attacked them.
“The solid whack I felt behind me took me by surprise,” Templer told The Guardian (UK). “I turned just in time to see [apprentice] Evans.”
“He had been flung out of his boat, flying through the air. His boat, with his two clients still in it, was lifted halfway out of the water on the hippo’s back.”
Templer then instructed another apprentice to guide everyone to a cluster of rocks nearby as he attempted to rescue Evans from the water.
But before he could, “I was engulfed in darkness,” he recalls.
“It was as if I had suddenly gone both blind and deaf.”
That’s because he’d been swallowed by a hippo.
Templer managed to escape the body of the beast during the animal’s next breath. But the angry hippo was not willing to let him go without a fight.
As he attempted to swim away, the creature grabbed Templer once more, leaving almost 40 puncture wounds before submerging itself again.
“Blood rose from my body in clouds, along with a sense of resignation,” he says.
“I’ve no idea how long we stayed under. Time passes slowly in a hippo’s mouth.”
Suddenly, the animal broke through the surface and spat Templer out as it did.
One of the apprentices was waiting nearby and paddled him to safety and sealed some of his wounds, including one so deep a portion of his lung was exposed.
In the end, though a surgeon estimated both of his arms and part of his injured leg would have to be amputated, Templer lost only his left arm.
But the incident couldn’t stop him from his passion, or work as a travel guide.
“Two years later, I led an expedition down the Zambezi River, and as we drifted past the stretch where the attack took place, a huge hippo lurched out of the water,” he says.
“I screamed so loudly that those with me said they’d never heard anything like it.”
“He dived back under and was never seen again. I’d bet my life savings it was the same hippo, determined to have the final word,” Templar says.