We got a wake-up call at 5am sharp on our second day at Singita Ebony. Thirty minutes to get ready and we stepped out to the private dining room (with chandelier!) right next to our villa. A very very adequate buffet with coffee and tea, yoghurt and granola as well as several types of muffins cookies was enjoyed before our morning drive. We hi the road by 6am, in 12 degree celsius weather, which felt like 6c with the wind chill factor in the open vehicle. Bundled up in thick jackets with scarves and hats, we hit the road just as the sun was rising. Just a few minutes drive and we came across a clearing with a small watering hole and looked in the direction the tracker was pointing towards.
At first it all looked like “the bush” — until two hulking dark shapes moved ever so slightly. Our first rhinoceros sighting in the wild! We approached cautiously and the rhinos looked our way warily (actually their eyesight is poor but they hear quite clearly) but continued grazing. There were two white (I think, my notes don’t specify but I think these are white rather than the relatively rarer black rhinos with stubbier necks) rhinoceros and don’t ask me why they are “white” when they didn’t look white at all. Some say it’s from a dutch word for wide, but who knows.
There was a pair of them, and on the smaller side as we would go on to learn and they just moseyed on along munching on the grass. How such a dedicated vegetarian can process weeds and grow into a hulking 1+ tonner (yup 2,200++ pounds for a male!) with shoulders as tall as I am is one of nature’s wonderful miracles. And nearly wiped out by their only real predator as tens of thousands were killed in the 1900’s, they are now protected and thankfully rebuilding their numbers. They have only one natural predator… stupid men. If only all those ______ men got their jollies with some Viagra instead of ground up rhino horn perhaps poaching would cease.
These seemingly gentle giants can do some wicked damage with their massive size and sharp powerful horns… Imagine a 2,200 pound being gathering up to a speed of nearly 50 kilometers per hour and slamming into the front or side of a jeep? That would do some pretty serious, if not fatal damage to the vehicle and passengers I would think. The rhinos seem docile, but can apparently “charge” or attack for little reason, and with poor eyesight, I wouldn’t want to be in their way when they choose to do that!
Our first sighting in the early morning was augmented by another sighting of larger rhinoceros later the same morning just a few kilometers away. Another pair, we couldn’t make out if there were others in the nearby bushes…
A third rhino sighting occurred with yet another pair (we were still looking for that “crash” of them, or a big family or social grouping of rhinoceros). These one were a bit further off our path, and I think they liked it that way.
They took a defensive butt to butt stance and I was half expecting to glimpse a little baby rhino somewhere that they were protecting, but there were no baby rhino sightings!
No longer feeling like finding one of the “Big Five” game animals was a really tough task, on our afternoon drive that day, we ran across our “crash” or I hope it’s accurate to call them a crash, when 8-9 rhinos were spotted grazing together. It was near sunset and we spotted this large male with a particularly long and sharp horn (on the right).
The rhinos turned to look at us but didn’t seem perturbed by our presence. Seriously, in less than 36 hours we saw four groups of rhinos?! Who could have expected that?
But we were STILL in AWE when we came across this ginormous rhino, probably close to maximum size and looking like a little mini-truck. I can see why even a lion would think thrice before taking on this mammoth of a beast!
He was joined by another member of the group and with them out in the open, we took the opportunity to take several photos.
And those birds riding on their backs? I think they are there to feed on parasites on the skin or hide of the rhinos.
Our guides were certainly making this look quite easy or effortless, but I am sure there was more to this than meets the amateurs eyes. So keep your count up… so far 3 leopard and 5 rhinoceros sightings so far!!!