Hippo Nursery

Mike Korostelev's Image

Mike Korostelev (Russia) reveals a hippopotamus and her two offspring resting in the clear water of a shallow lake.

Mike had been visiting the hippos in this lake for more than two years. He’d already managed to photograph them swimming under water using a drone, which they tolerated, and he knew they were accustomed to his boat.

On this occasion, while keeping a respectful distance to avoid alarming the mother, Mike took the rare chance of an underwater encounter. ‘I spent just 20 seconds with them, enough time to get one set of shots,’ he explains. His wide angle capturing the hippos in their daytime realm.

Artist, Storyteller and Competition Judge Celina Chien remarks, ‘I love that it reveals the hidden side of hippo life - the tender and bashful family cradled by dreamy hues and cloudlike textures. It reminded me that there’s always a new way to see the world, if you have the courage.’

Hippos retreat to water or muddy wallows by day, emerging after sunset to graze. They’re fast runners and can propel themselves swiftly under the water with their short legs and webbed feet.

With each female producing just one calf every two to three years, their slow-growing population is particularly vulnerable to habitat degradation, drought and illegal hunting. Hippos are killed not only for meat but for ivory from their teeth.

Behind the lens

Mike Korostelev

Mike Korostelev


Mike is a wildlife photographer specialising in underwater photography. In 2004 he finished his education at Moscow State University and for almost 10 years worked as an IT specialist before changing careers. As well as wildlife photography, Mike now also runs wildlife trips and organises whale watching expeditions. His photos have been awarded in both the Dutch and Slovenian Nature Photographer of the Year competitions as well as the European Wildlife Photographer contest.

Image details

  • Canon EOS 5D Mark III
  • 17–40mm f4 lens
  • 1/320 at f7.1  •   ISO 640  •   Seacam housing
  • Kosi Bay, iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa
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