Since this past week was World Rhino Day, on 22nd of September, we thought it fitting to post a short article about our experience rhino tracking through the Mokolodi Nature Reserve in search of those elusive white rhino.
It was a weekend back in November of 2015 and we had spent the night at one of the chalets and were up early on Sunday morning to pack up and get to the reception as close to 7am as possible as our guides would be waiting for us at 07:30. We made it on time and were shortly on our way with our two guides into the depths of the reserve to find us some rhino! The talkative driver was keeping us informed and entertained along the way while his colleague was the rhino-tracker himself who only occasionally whispered something to the driver and we would stop and he would get out and search the surrounding area for footprints and/or fresh rhino droppings (as we were told by the driver).
After about an hour of driving we ended up in a part of Mokolodi that can only be accessed with guides as the gravel roads to these sections are clearly marked as “No Entry” zones. We stopped another few times along the way for the tracker to have a look around and we’d be on our way again. Along the way we did see a number of kudu, warthog and impala roaming around.
Eventually at one stop, the tracker took a little longer to come back from his search and when he did he told us to come and follow him, which we eagerly did. We walked along behind him, with his rifle in hand and observed the ground as he pointed out massive rhino footprints in the soil. A few minutes later we came across fresh rhino dung (you know it’s fresh if the dung beetles are still there collecting their fill).
Not five minutes later, we came to a stop and the guide told us to look around as well, paying attention to the shady spots under the trees. We silently looked around and surely enough, we spotted a couple of rhino about 20 metres away from us, lying in the shade of a large thorn tree. The guide (knowing they were there all along) whispered to us to make our way to the right so as to reach a clearing from where we would see them better. We found an ideal spot and stopped to admire these gentle giants who had of course noticed us and had gotten up slowly to their feet.
This was the guide’s opportunity to impress even more as he gave us fact after fact about the white rhino (the difference between them and black rhinos), their surroundings, their numbers (Mokolodi has six) and their eating habits and preferences. We took some photos and Mr Entertainer/Driver took some shots of us as well.
Both rhino, a mother and her not-so-young calf, didn’t really seem bothered by us, but not once did the mother turn her back on us, while the youngster frolicked in the dust, hid behind his mum and then frolicked some more. After about 40 minutes of admiring these beasts of the African bush, we made our way slowly back to the car, along the way (silently) applauding the efforts of a dung beetle who was busily pushing along a large ball of poo.
We thought that we would be on our way back to the reception now as we had tracked and found the rhino we were looking for, but no…there was still more! We were making our way back up to the lake and on the way, through another “No Entry” zone, we stopped at the large cheetah enclosure, where we saw the two new cheetah (Thuto and Lesedi) lazily lying in the shade, watching us watch them.
We proceeded to the lake where there was a light picnic waiting for us! A table full of tea, coffee and an assortment of cold drinks was very welcome as were the platters of mini sandwiches, samosas, fruit, nuggets and chips. As we picnicked by the lake and chatted to our bush-wise guides, we could hear the two local hippo grunting a bit further in the lake and out of view. After the revitalizing brunch, we finally made our way back to the reception area where we thanked our guides for a very successful and relatively short rhino tracking, which is a good thing as the tracking itself can last 2-3 hours with some people apparently not even finding them. We decided to stock up on some cold drinks from the tea garden and head back to the other side of the lake and find those grunting hippo. We drove to one of the side areas near the banks of the lake and sure enough, the two hippo were in view, tanning their top halves and exhaling the occasional grunt.
We relaxed by the lake for a short while, setting up a couple of chairs and our coolbox. Had a couple of cold cokes, watched the hippo bobbing in the water and listened to the usual lake-ducks arguing and hooting up a storm. As the sun got hotter and our coke bottles were empty, we decided to head back to the entrance and on home. This was our first up close and personal experience with rhino, especially on foot and it’s a must-do for everyone! Visit the Mokolodi website for more information on pricing and age-limit (if any) for kids.
Our (and Mr. Entertainer’s) photos from the tracking are below:
"We are a young, married, Botswana-based couple with a passion for going out into nature and the bush any chance we get!"