Our top five favourite places to spot rhino from Namibia to Kenya.
22 Oct 2020
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There are two species of rhino: white and black rhino, which confusingly is nothing to do with their colour.
In recent years, the number of rhinos in Africa has increased due to focused conservation efforts and better protection against poaching, but black rhinos remain critically endangers due to illegal demand for their horn. Technically it is the black rhino which is part of the big five, but many people count both black and white rhino within this.
Here are our favourite 5 places to see rhino in Africa.
1. Damaraland, Namibia
Seeing a rhino in the wild is always a magical experience but seeing it in the ‘true’ wild without fences or others around, is something really special.
In the vast Palmwag concession in the Damaraland region of Namibia you can track these magical beasts both in a vehicle and on foot. Save the Rhino Trust – an NGO that has been has been instrumental in the preservation of these rare, desert adapted black rhino operates here in conjunction with Wilderness Safaris who operate the originally named ‘Desert Rhino Camp’ – I guess it does what it says on the tin!
Having just managed to survive the cull of ’80s and ’90s, the black rhino population has doubled since the formation of the Save The Rhino Trust. Guests are invited to meet the rangers and walk with them as they get surprisingly close on foot, these are black rhino with poor vision after all! The experience is intense, very humbling and one that will stay with you forever. The scenery here is also pretty special and the camp has a great vibe too. It’s well worth the trip!
In the 1960s, Kenya was home to an estimated 20,000 black rhinos, but just two decades later, poaching had reduced this to just 300. Today, thanks to conservation efforts, the black rhino population is steadily recovering and there are now over 600 black rhinos in Kenya, but they still remain critically endangered.
The beautiful Sera Conservancy in northern Kenya is a large, remote conservancy which also offers the possibility to get up close and personal with these critically endangered animals on foot. This conservancy is effectively a huge (and very successful) Rhino Sanctuary. The 54,000 hectares is fenced and guarded to offer these prehistoric beasts a refuge from poachers.
The expert trackers and guides seek out elusive black rhinos, of which there are 16, for a magical experience. The guides will drive you to a point where the vehicle is left and the remainder is done on foot, to get you within metres of these beautiful beasts. The only thing you will hear is your heart thumping in your chest.
Saruni has an intimate and very comfortable 3 room camp set in the heart of the conservancy beside the seasonal Kauro River called (surprisingly!) ‘Saruni Rhino’. A perfect 2 or 3 night stay here combines well with a Masai Mara safari (where you are highly unlikely to see rhino) or combined with its sister camp and its incredible views in the nearby Samburu Area. Samburu Saruni.
Lewa Conservancy is one of the best places to see high numbers of white and black rhino. Conservation began in 1983 and since then the rhino population has grown from 15 to 169 today. Lewa is also home to the rare Grevy zebra, as well as elephants, giraffes, lions and leaoprds. You can even visit the Conservancy offices to learn about the ongoing work of the dedicated team, meet the anti-poaching bloodhounds and help bottle feed orphaned baby rhinos. Our favourite place to stay in Lewa is the gorgeous Lewa Wilderness where you can also enjoy horseback and walking safaris.
South Africa has in relative terms an abundance of rhinoceros. If these animals are a ‘must see’ and you want to include that in your main safari, South Africa is probably the destination for you!
Hluhluwe Imfolozi is officially the oldest reserve in Africa and the size of a small country, this often missed park is home to the largest white rhino population in the world thanks to the conservation efforts which started way back in the 60’s.
Rhinos from Hluhluwe Imfolozi have helped repopulate the Kruger as well as other countries such as Mozambique and Botswana in a series of superbly successful relocation programmes. One of the most recent ones is Rhinos Without Borders which successfully relocated rhino’s into the Okavango Delta – see more below.
Hluhluwe Imfolozi is home to the Big 5 as well as a whole host of plain game and is well worth spending a few days in. One of the best places to stay is the aptly named Rhino Ridge Lodge (a lodge, in a rhino hotspot, set on a ridge!) which offers comfortable accommodation, great views and is excellent for a family safari.
Whilst seeing a rhino anywhere is an amazing sight, seeing one in Botswana is practically a miracle. Hunted so ferociously for their horns in the 1980’s that there were officially only 19 White Rhino in the wild, and no Black ones. The Government promptly moved these white rhinos into fenced sanctuaries and so by 1993 there were no longer any wild rhino’s in Botswana.
The reintroduction of rhino species to Botswana – initiated in 2000 – represented (and still does) an exciting conservation success – Rhino Conservation Botswana. Healthy founder populations of both white and black rhino have been released into the Okavango Delta and one of the best places to see these wonderful creatures is on Chiefs Island where their numbers are thriving. A joy to see the poaching process being reversed for once.
Mombo is one of Botswana’s premier camps and offers incredible big-game viewing, as well as a flourishing rhinoceros population roaming free, something that was unlikely just a few years ago.
Matobo National Park (originally Rhodes Matopos) is Zimbabwe’s oldest National Park – established in 1926 and it is probably one of the prettiest of all of Africa’s parks. It is decorated by a huge number of large granite formations and balancing rocks that have been eroded over millions of years, almost making it look like it was done on purpose. It also has some amazing cultural and historical offerings: beautifully preserved San bushman paintings exceeding 2000 years in age, there are over 3000 registered rock art sites; as well as the grave of one Cecil Rhodes.
For rhino lovers and seekers the most important part of this lesser visited National Park is the Intensive Protection Zone where black and white rhino’s relocated from both Hluhluwe Imfolozi and The Zambezi Valley in Zambia have been settled, and where they are prospering.
Walking safaris in Zimbabwe are a way of life and there is no better place to do this than in Matobo. Here, with your guide, you can get pretty close to some enormous white rhinoceros (in Namibia and Sera they are black rhino) – these are the bigger breed but also the more docile and there is no greater feeling of insignificance than sat close by as one of these enormous grazers glides by enjoying his lunch.