Zambia: Walking with Rhinos
Since our visit to Kruger National Park in South Africa, I had been dead set on seeing rhinos, at least from a shorter distance. It turned out it wasn’t meant to be until we got to Zambia.
It is worth noting that in 2010, the population of white rhinos in Zambia was a shocking total of 1. Yes, ONE. Thankfully, the country sprung into action and relocated 4 white rhinos from South Africa to Zambia’s Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, and since then the population has grown to a total of 9 rhinos thanks to these specimens birthing four more rhinos.
In an effort to prevent the new population from being once again poached to extinction, the African Wildlife Foundation partnered with the Zambia Wildlife Authority to keep these animals protected and monitored 24/7. As such, each of the rhinos have their own military escort teams to ensure no one is hunting or harassing them at all times.
As part of these conservation and education efforts, the Park offers nature walks inside its protected area in which a conservation expert plus a team of armed park rangers escort the visitors in hopes of catching a rare glimpse of the elusive species. As soon as I heard about this I jumped at the opportunity of both getting to see them up close and at the same time contributing to the cause.
We were picked up from our hotel by the tour company that arranged our activity for us
ass crack of dawn very early, which is really the only time when the sun is not scorching your skin and everything else it touches. When we arrived to the Park, we were greeted by about a half dozen armed military rangers wielding AK47s ‘for protection’. After a short introduction and a quick explanation of how the walk would work, we gathered the guns were to protect the rhinos and NOT the tourists, which given the conservation status of these animals, I can totally support.
We proceeded to get started with our walk, and we were drenched in sweat in no more than… actually, we were before we even started the walk. Since the rangers keep track of the rhinos at all times, they know the places where they’re at during the day and continuously radio each other to report the whereabouts. During the walk, the guide will point at other animals and plants and narrate a whole host of interesting facts. This really is a very educational nature walk. With guns.
At one point, the ranger told us to keep the talk to a minimum as we started following the tracks of a couple of rhinos. No more than 10 minutes after that, we ran into the gentle giants having a mud bath in one of their preferred watering holes.
Now, I would absolutely recommend this activity to anyone who enjoys nature and a bit of adventure, even if it’s extremely hot and exhausting. Where else would you be able to see white rhinos in their habitat and learn more about them while you do so? The answer is not in many places since we suck and have been killing them to extinction. We paid aproximately $50 per person, and it was just the two of us, and it includes the walk, the talk, the armed escort and breakfast. So do yourself a favor if you’re in Zambia, go see them and have a blast. And if you’re not in Zambia, but you would like to be able to see them in the future, I’d suggest you go to the African Wildlife Foundation and donate.