Arts, Culture & Media

Man Half Swallowed by Hippo Lives to Tell Tale

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Hippopotamus partially submerged (Photo: WIKI)

Our Geo Quiz takes an unexpected turn.

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Tour guide Paul Templer will never forget paddling down a river in southern Africa 17 years ago.

"It had started as a just a beautiful day in Africa just above Victoria Falls," Templer says. "And I was leading a canoe safari and things had been going rather well until a lot of sudden there was a huge whooosh behind me I turned and there was a hippopotamus."

What happened next in that close encounter with a two ton hippo is quite alarming.

But first we want you to name that river.

It's the source of Victoria Falls, a thundering waterfall that's more than twice as high as Niagara Falls by the way.

This river in southern Africa partly forms the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Here's the rest of the story …

Templer told the BBC he was paddling along the current with three other apprentice guides.

"I was leading a canoe safari and things had been going rather well until all of a sudden there was a huge whoosh behind me I turned just in time to see one of the canoes in our armada getting attacked by a hippopotamus and unfortunately one of my guides got thrown into the river and so my job was to go and get him out," Templer says.

A rescue sounds like a courageous thing to attempt, but it was risky since man vs hippo is not what you might call a good matchup.

"As I was leaning over to grab a hold of him, the hippo burst up out of the water and plucked me cleanly out of my canoe."

So for a moment there on the Zambezi he was in the mouth of the hippo.

Hippo jaws are strong enough to snap a human in half.

"It happened so fast the first thing I knew I was in this dank, dark place and there was this pressure crushing down on my lower back," Templer says. "I could feel the water around my legs. I'm about six-foot man so you can fit half a six-foot man, waist first, down a hippo's throat."

The attack lasted over three minutes and involved dozens of of puncture wounds, blood, and thrashing about in the water.

Templer says he remembers frantically freeing one of his arms and feeling the whiskers of the hippo's snout.

"In the midst of this I guess with the adrenalin coursing everything slowed down so when we went under water I would hold my breath, and when we were on the surface I'd suck in air and all the while I figured out that if I held onto the tusks that were boring into me that my flesh wouldn't tear so much when he shook me about," he says. "At one point he did spit me out far enough that one of the chaps on our trip, a guide who I knew quite well, Mike, just showed exceptional bravery and he paddled in and I was able to grab on to his boat and he dragged me out."

Well to make a long story short, Paul Templar was half swallowed by a two-ton hippo, spit out, and lived to tell the tale.

He lost his mangled left arm in the hippo attack but somehow survived the ordeal. In fact he was inspired by the experience to devote his energy to work on behalf of terminally ill children and amputees.

All in all, it was a life changing day on the Zambezi River, the answer to our Geo Quiz.