It was an early start…and when I say early, I mean 4am wake up and 4:30am departure early. It was off to a rhino game park where we would be tracking these amazing and highly endangered animals.
Once there we had a quick breakfast and an enlightening orientation in which we learned a lot about the rhinos plight for survival in a world that is increasingly demanding rhino horns. Poaching is a huge problem here in Africa and a lot is being done to help stop it but unfortunately rhinos are still being killed for their horns. There are both white an black rhino here, the latter being the most rare with only a few thousand left in the world. Many of the rhinos here have been ethically dehorned in an attempt to save their lives from poachers. Today it was our job to track and monitor these rhinos, check for signs of good/poor health, see if there were any new calves etc.
Initially we split into two smaller groups and set out in the safari vehicles towards the general location of rhinos. Stopping along the way to use radio telemetry we eventually got out of the car and with the help of an experienced guide continued on foot. Waking through a game park on foot is a pretty unique and exhilarating experience, knowing you’re getting closer and closer to this rare animal. Once we saw it through those trees, it was a mix of disbelief and I’d even admit a little scary. They are so big, an look so gentle as we were crouching in the shrubs. They have very poor eye site but good hearing and smell, so it’s important to be downwind and very quite. One group saw two rhinos and the other saw three rhinos, who upon smelling them ran away through the brush behind them (the rhinos that is!) A once in a lifetime experience that’s for sure!
It was back to the game park base camp for some lunch and to excitedly tell the other groups what they had seen. After lunch it was back out into the park to search for more rhinos…each group once again, tracking them down. Sadly it was time to head back to camp, but from waking up at 4am, I think everyone was just a little pooped. Many a nap was had on the drive back home where a beautiful dinner of spaghetti bol was waiting for us, made by our wonderful local Zulu chef Busi.
The night was spent cooking marshmallows by the fire and also for half the group headed on a night drive around the park where they saw all kinds of wild animals such as caracals (a stunning cat species), buffalo, impala, inyala, zebras, spiders and an owl if that wasn’t enough already! Some tired volunteers returned and it was an early nights sleep.
Tomorrow we continue the invasive plant removal work, but I also have a little surprise in stall for everyone…check out tomorrow’s blog to find out! 🙂