Africa is home to many of the worlds favourite animal species, the Rhino, the Lion and also the Hippopotamus or Hippo for short. It is understood that Hippos are some of the most dangerous and fearsome creatures in Africa, although they look like placid animals, and there are many accounts of Hippos attacking and killing people who invade their space or disrupt their routines. Well, tucked away in the Central Lowveld nestled between the Kruger National Park and the Blyde River Canyon you will find the small tourism and agriculturally orientated town of Hoedspruit and Jessica Hippo, the exception to the rule!
Jessicas Place is the home of a very special creature named Jessica and it is dedicated to her life and wellbeing. Jessica is a 10 year old female Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) who will win the heart of any animal lover. Jessica was found on 11 March 2000, by Tonie and Shirley Joubert, on the banks of the Blyde River. It was a terrible period for Mozambique and South Africa as both countries were lashed by severe flooding. The flooding took its toll on the land, but also on the wildlife, and Jessica was found on the banks of the river, only hours old, weak and with her umbilical cord attached. Thanks to Tonies experience and knowledge as a game ranger, he had a formula to create a substitute similar to colestrum, and this made the difference to the young Hippo.
Over the years and with much love and attention Jessica has developed into a large but gentle creature. She is genuinely kind and although she has phenomenal strength in her jaw, she has never shown any signs of aggression. Jessica is described as the most wonderful precious thing, she is so unique and special, and needs to be appreciated. In April 2001, Jessica became a movie star, and at the age of 18 months she was already world famous, when she played a role in a South African movie Mr. Bones with actor and comedian Leon Schuster. What makes Jessica so special and unique, is the fact that she's a wild animal that interacts with humans in a rather different way than nature has intended. She displays mind-boggling characteristics which makes us wonder about our approach towards wild animals. When considering the natural behavior of the species, it is hard to establish whether Jessica considers herself as human or us humans as fellow hippos? Due to her behavior, Jessica has become somewhat of a worldwide phenomenon and she has her own international fan-club.
So what can you experience when you visit Jessica, well firstly the staff will show you a video about Jessica and her history. You will then be moved down to the raft and feed Jessica the snack of the day. After the snack she will be given her 2 bottles of tea. Visitors will then move on to giving her a back rub with their feet and just sit with Jessica for a while.
Jesicas Place is open from Monday to Saturday from 10:00 to 12:00 and again from 15:00 to 17:00, and on Sundays from 10:00 to 12:00.
There is an entrance fee charged of R75 per person and R30 for children 6 - 12 years of age. Children under 6 years will enter for free.
So come on down, come feed, touch and play with Jessica the Hippo.
When in Hoedspruit take the R527 towards Lydenburg. About 8km out of town have a look out for a sign that says Essex and another sign that says Jessica the hippo. Turn right there and follow the dirt road for about 7km. Just before the low water bridge on your right you will see a gate with Jessica Hippo.
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