Rhino Tracking in Botswana

We were up at 5:30 and our hired guides picked us up at 6:15 for a Rhino Trek. We figured even if we didn’t come upon rhinos it was worth the money for the guided trip to be able to get out for a walk. It is very hard to come by exercise in Africa. Either you are in a crowded, town, supposedly dangerous cities, or in the countryside where there are people and huts and their livestock everywhere so you feel uncomfortable walking through their kraals and pasture, or you are away from humanity in the animal parks but it is against the rules to get out and walk because it is too dangerous with wild animals all about.

Our guides, Charles and King, said we were looking for the tracks of females since the males travel much further from the water holes and tracking them can take days. However, Bob surprised everyone by pointing out two male rhinos just at the side of the road. We parked and enjoyed them a while as they didn’t seem at all nervous. I liked being so close them but still in the safety of a large safari vehicle. Although Charles and King were talking to each other in their language it was easy to tell they were a bit embarrassed that they had driven right past the two, young, males. Of course they were looking closely at the dirt while driving, keeping an eye out for tracks, so who can blame them. The pair was an 8 year old male and his 5 year old brother. The mother had died (of old age) shortly after the youngest was weaned so the older brother raised the baby and taught him how to browse and such. Since man is their only predator in the park, which is completely fenced in, and they have a good anti-poaching team, I guess the older brother didn’t have too much to teach his sibling about survival in the bush.

A bit further along King found some good, fresh tracks so we parked and left the safety of the truck behind. We walked, then trudged thorough the African bush tracking a pair of female rhinos for nearly two hours. By 8 AM it was very hot and though we had gotten close to the pair twice, we couldn’t seem to get up wind enough to come in around them and get a view of them. Charles kept asking us if we were ready to head back and by this last “near sighting” I was almost ready to say yes but Bob gave a hearty encouragement to keep trekking so on we went. Soon we cut the trail of another pair. One set of tracks looked very small, like a youngster, so it didn’t seem to me like the best situation but our guides led us way around and we came in close to the mom and baby that was not quite a year old. We were well upwind from the rhinos so we got to within 75 feet of the family before they started paying a lot of attention to us. I could barely breathe as the mother turned on us suddenly and stared right at us. Charles whispered not to move so I figured that included breathing. There were no trees nearby, only a lot of scrawny bushes that even the baby could trample with ease. Bob, Charles and King are probably the three fittest men in Botswana so they could probably outrun a rhino charge so they weren’t scared. Besides, I think they all realized I’d be left well behind and would act as decoy while they escaped. After ten minutes of us holding still, though my breathing had re-commenced, the momma figured we were just shrubs and moved off. We followed them for a bit and got one last good sighting of them before they charged off into the thicket. I strongly encouraged a return to the vehicle at this point.

It took nearly an hour to circle back to the rig and just before arriving we came upon another pair of males. The elder of the two had a horn that was almost 24 inches long. It is amazing that these guides, or others in the park who don’t earn much money, don’t kill this huge male. I’m sure its horn would generate enough income for a man and his extended family to live on for years.

We were hot and tired after more than 4 hours in the bush but we broke camp in 30 minutes and left Khama Rhinoceros Sanctuary before noon. We made it to Francistown in a couple of hours. This is the second largest city in Botswana, with a population smaller than Bend, Oregon…about 65,000. We used the Internet and found a Target-like store where Bob bought a cheap, two-person tent. No more sleeping apart I guess. We ate a real meal for the first time in weeks, at an Indian restaurant. It was dark by the time we left town so we only drove 10K north of town to a bush camp where we had reserved a little, two-bed chalet. When we arrived we discovered they also had some grassy campsites, which we would have taken had we known about them, but the guard who let us in was too confused about trying to change the reservation, though it had only been an hour ago that we called. He felt he would get in trouble with the (white) boss if we didn’t take the chalet. He was a nice fellow who was a refugee from Zimbabwe, which is only a few miles east of us, so we took the chalet and gave him a big tip. There was a lovely swimming pool and we were hot and tired from a dusty day in the city, not to mention the early morning rhino trek, so we took a dip, showered, and went to bed. Bob slept well, and of course I did too.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *