Saturday, 20 December 2014

Rhino Walking Safari, Kruger National Park

CSI Kruger

This post by Characterstays was recently published on Africa Geographic:

We had a lot of anticipatory anxiety about our Rhino Walking Safari. Every day for several weeks we asked each other a new question, like “When they say Rhino Walking, do you think they actually try to get close to rhinos?” There were a lot of “What if?”s. The night before we depart on our walking safari our fears peak and we secretly hope for torrential rains that we might be spared from this adventure, all the while being able to complain loudly about the unfair weather. Finally dawn breaks crystal clear and a red sun rises over the dewy plain. Douw.

Nothing can quite prepare you for the experience of walking out in the wilds of Africa. Every sense lights up in primal re-awakening. Senses you never even knew you had become foregrounded in puckered awareness. I jump at every whisper and waft. One of the guest’s stomach growls and I almost hit the ground.

Then a funny thing happens and I quite quickly start to relax. A thorough assessment of our guide, Doug, and tracker Amos reassures me of their professionalism and respect for nature. They stay out in open areas and avoid the thickets, such that they may see far into the veld and avoid any potential danger. I start to enjoy the light, sounds and smells of the great outdoors. I use my newfound sensory awareness to appreciate every texture of the bush.

Doug and Amos are passionate about their environment and bring us into their world by creating 4 dimensional reconstructions of the events as told by the living crime scenes of our surrounds. They explain which type of animal left its trail, when it passed by this particular spot, in which direction it was headed, its size and gender. Even the sounds at different heights in the bush take on meaning and can alert one to past, present or future action. I begin to look at animal scat with new appreciation, as Doug seems to have majored in the subject. Both guides are footprints experts and can also point out nests and hollows were different birds and beasties spent the night. It is thoroughly enjoyable and informative and I almost forget I am out on foot in untamed Africa.

Suddenly Amos lifts both his hands, turns and motions in silence towards a quiet sound in the bush. We follow his gaze and see a mother and baby rhino to our right. “Shall we try to get closer?” says Doug. Well, I guess that’s one question answered. As I open my mouth to form a diplomatic reply, another guest nods enthusiastically and I close my mouth thinking “OK I had a whole different answer planned.” If there’s one thing for which I have a healthy respect, it’s for a mother with baby animal in the wild. We creep up downwind towards the mother and baby.

Once again I quickly become more confident and start snapping away happily with my camera. Then the smallest gust of wind swirls in a different direction and four things happen in quick succession. 1 The mother hears my camera shutter snap. Gulp. 2. She turns to look directly at us. Double gulp. 3. Doug holds up his hand, hisses “stop shooting” and 4. we all freeze. Time stands as still as we do, none of us even breathing. But with her phenomenal powers of hearing and smell, she is onto us, fully aware of our presence. With a snort and thrust of her head she moves between the baby and us, and then thankfully, they turn and trot off light footedly (and with surprising speed) into the bush.

No sooner have they turned than we realize that there are four more rhino moving towards us from the left. We have all been unaware of each other’s presence. We crouch down and pray that the winds don’t change. The four rhino move unconcerned past us, munching grass as they go. We slowly let out a long breath.

“Wasn’t that fantastic?!” exclaims elated Doug. “Errrr exhilarating” I reply, walking on wobbly legs until gradually I once again relax and with a spring in my step feel proud that we tracked our quarry so successfully.

To book for a Rhino Walking Safari, visit

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