Trekking Rhino on foot in Uganda

Star Travel Rating

4/5

Review type

Things to do

Location

Date of travel

June, 2022

Product name

Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary

Product country

Uganda

Product city

Nakitoma

Travelled with

Couple

Reasons for trip

Culture/Sightseeing

After leaving Uganda’s capital Entebbe, the first stop on our three-week tour was Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, where we were going to trek rhino on foot.

Just as we were about to set off, we heard the rumble of thunder and at the last minute, packed rain jackets. On the short drive to the meeting point, we spotted the blue bottomed vervet monkey (the only monkey to be seen outside national parks), wart hog, guinea fowl, bush buck and a herd of long-horned cattle.

Simon Peter (SP), our guide, told us about the sanctuary’s history. Rhinos became extinct in Uganda in the mid-1980s due to poaching but in 2001, two southern white rhinos were flown from Kenya to the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre in Entebbe. This led to four more rhinos from Kenya to what became Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, followed a year later by two more from the Disney Animal Kingdom. All the rhinos have names and when the female American mated with the male Kenyan, the baby was called Obama after Barrack. They now total 33 and the sanctuary is the only place in Uganda to see them in the wild.

A safety briefing followed, and we were told we’d be walking quietly in single file, and that we should disable the flash on our camera and turn off any GPS. If SP felt we were in danger, we were to follow him silently to behind a tree or bush. SP said he treated the trek as a game, and as he was captain, he hoped we would win by seeing at least three rhinos. Our hopes were high.

We set off along a narrow wiggly ‘rhino highway’ – as rhino eyes are at the side of their head, they need to alter direction to check for predators either to the side or behind.

The path led out onto an open grassy plain and we had our first sighting of two rhino – Malika, the sister of Obama and her baby born in February 2021. We watched for a while at a distance of 25-feet as we were downwind, and the vegetation was clear. This seemed very close bearing in mind their size. White rhino are actually grey, and their name comes from the Afrikaans word “weit”, which means wide and refers to the animal’s muzzle.

SP said that when it is hot, the rhinos visit the rhino supermarket – an area with a mud pool for sun cream and saltlick for nibbles. We moved on and saw another mum and baby, followed by another pair although they had their backs to us.

We met Innocent, one of the armed rangers who patrol 24/7, and despite the weather threatening, he led us further away to see the alpha male. Having taken photographs, we were returning when the heavens opened, and we got our rain jackets out and on just in time. It absolutely poured and very quickly the ground became swampy, and the rhino highway turned into a stream. After 30-minutes of walking in lashing rain, we were soaked through to our skin. However, our mission was accomplished we’d seen seven rhinos in total.

When we’d first met SP, I’d spotted his wellington boots and asked if they were hot and was told they were necessary as sometimes the ground became swampy. However, having seen SP take off his boots and tip out the water, I wasn’t sure whether they had a leak or whether it was caused by drips. Our boots took two days to fully dry.

Helen Jackson

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