My first glimpse of a wild rhinoceros, was in Balule, Kruger NP South Africa in September 2009. I had arrived that afternoon to begin my work placement, wet behind the ears but with a great deal of enthusiasm. Having met my new boss and head guide and been told to get a haircut as soon as possible, I was dropped off at Camp George, a privately owned, self-catered cottage that I was to look after in the coming months.
Camp George overlooked a small waterhole, frequented by a variety of birds and mammals. Perched on the edge of the deck with a notebook and binoculars I swung my feet and felt the day draw to a close in the Kruger. I was absolutely certain I was the luckiest man alive in that moment.
I had my head down in the bird book, deciphering the fire finches and waxbills that enlivened the pond, when I became gently aware of a presence ahead of me. A very large bull white rhino appeared out of the Combretum woodlands and lumbered forward. His huge head, hung low, was swinging from side to side with those great lips mowing up the grasses he favoured most. I recall a gasp escaped me and he immediately stopped, head up, ears and nose forward assessing the disturbance. After several minutes his thirst clearly outweighed whatever threat he thought I may pose and he came forward to drink. As he did, two smaller bulls came out from concealment and flanked him as if in escort. I was close enough that I could hear the three of them drinking, I could hardly believe my senses.
The years that followed in Kruger would give me extraordinarily frequent opportunities of encountering White Rhino on foot and in the vehicle, with occasional breath-taking sightings of the few black rhino that were then active in the region. We didn’t realise how lucky we were.
On our recent exploration in central Kenya, we had the good fortune to spend an extended period in several of the stronghold conservancies, that have quite literally resurrected the two African species in East Africa. It was a return to the heady rhino viewing of those first years in Kruger and gave us a rare opportunity to observe both species, revived, relaxed and in close proximity.
We post Jana’s photographs here as a celebration of these glorious creatures and the extraordinary conservancies that have become their refuge in East Africa.
Borana Conservancy, Lewa Conservancy, Ol Pejeta Conservancy and Solio Conservancy were all highlights of our most recent trip, they offer some of the best rhino viewing one can find in Africa.
Description: A browsing rhino with an upright stance and prehensile (hooked) lip. The smaller of the two African species.
Black Rhino, Diceros bicornis
Weight: 900KG – 1350KG
Population: between 5000 and 5500
Status: Critically Endangered
White Rhino, Ceratotherium simum
Description: A huge grazing rhino with head hung low and a large, square lip for mowing the grass. Significantly larger of the two African species.
Weight: 1800KG – 2500KG
Status: Near Threatened
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