safari bush sightings

black rhino sighting

black-rhino at Sabi Sabi

Sunday morning - sunrise. A number of Land Rovers left the lodges to begin the early morning safari. Little did we know that during this morning game drive we would be privileged to see one of the Africa's most endangered (and temperamental!) animals.

As the temperatures started to rise, so too did the excitement on the vehicles. Most guests had already experienced excellent sightings of lion, leopard, rhino and elephant. The heat of the early morning sun caused beads of sweat to run down my face and had plastered my hair to my forehead. We were into the quiet, returning to the lodge lull. My guests were getting warm and tired, eyes drooping as they contemplated breakfast. We were driving along a gently bumping road, chatting about the dense trees and unique flora found along the riverbed. I was also hoping to spot some of the migrant bird species that should have started arriving back to the Sabi Sabi bushveld. Suddenly a frantic call came over the radio, almost incomprehensible because of excitement! I could tell that something really unusual was happening and could only catch a few words "Bejane" and "Squirrel Boundary"!

We were only a few minutes away from the area, so I turned to my wide eyed guests and shouted "Black Rhino folks, 2 minutes drive away, haven't seen one for ages!!!" By now I had already heard from Jonas, the ranger, that the Rhino had just charged at the Land Rover with no provocation - a very good reason for him to have left the engine of his vehicle running so that he could quickly drive out of harms way. This was all I needed to confirm that this was indeed a Black, rather than the more placid White Rhino which occurs in large numbers at Sabi Sabi.

The Black Rhino is a highly endangered and extremely unsociable and bad-tempered large mammal. Another vehicle, driven by Niamh, arrived before we did and Jonas left after having had enough excitement for one day. Black Rhino are by nature, highly temperamental, solitary and very nervous creatures. Knowledge of their behaviour is essential for viewing them safely, and all the Sabi Sabi rangers are trained to understand and respect their body language. Nobody drove off road to get closer views, as the Rhino was huffing and puffing and showing clear signs of agitation. Niamh and I approached along the road, slowly and carefully, leaving our vehicles idling in case he decided to run towards us! After a few seconds the rhino settled down and we were able to get some good photos from about 60 metres away. I could not initially fully express my excitement to my guests and was finally able to blubber out information on Black Rhino behaviour, physiology and their rarity in the park.

The Rhino (it turned out it was a bull) started to relax with our presence but was still far more alert than what a White Rhino would ever have been - so we decided not to put any pressure on him by moving any closer. At more than a tonne of body weight, a Black rhino bull is not something you want to upset!

The bull settled down in the shade and remained there for most of the day.

We were not too sure in which direction he moved as we could not find tracks the next day. We hope he hasn't moved too far from the Tamboti thickets that Black Rhino love so much, and that we will soon find him again.

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