South Africa 6 — A Crash (or Stubborness) of Rhinoceros


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!!!

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17 Responses

  1. Did you see some middens (dung piles made by the male rhinos) along the road ? The rhino would kick its hind legs to make a crater in the dirt, defecate and deposit its dung in the shallow crater then promptly cover it with dirt. Only male rhinos do this. The females, they just “doo” it anywhere. So ladies, here is a myth buster for you, some males are organized and do know how to “lift the toilet seat”:)

  2. Female rhinoceros do it like hippos in this clip:

    I have more sympathy for the rhinoceros than for human beings who hunt them. In the movie Hatari where the opening scene was John Wayne trying to catch a rhinoceros, I actually rooted for the animal to get away.

  3. Keeping count with you , MM, and depending on your groupings, so far, leopards and rhinos , two from the Big Five ( rhino, leopard, lion, elephant, buffalo); big, not necessarily for size but they give the biggest fight.

    You saw warthogs, wildebeest and hyena did you say? of the UGLY FIVE: hyena, warthog, wildebeest, vulture, marabou stork ( not the best looking creatures but their feeding habits are unpleasant as well).

    Now waiting for the super two , the cheetah and the painted dog , the former, the fastest in the jungle and the latter for being endangered, although the cheetahs are relatively rare too. They say they only have 200 in the whole of a million hectare KNP, so you would be lucky to have a sighting. And let’s see if some of the SHY FIVE and LITTLE FIVE came out for the eyeball:)

  4. Ha, ha, ha, Footloose, some explosion! “What was that?”, some spectators exclaimed!

  5. @ Footloose: Ha!ha!ha! and the comments are also funny like “the windshield wiper”and “manure spreader”!

    MM just curious, have you asked your guides how many times they have fired their rifles in these kind of tours? to scare or actually hit the animal?

  6. Betchay, Mrs. MM did ask, and in 8-9 years of our main guide, he said he never killed an animal, and only once was on the trigger to fire a warning shot, I believe it was for an elephant, but I could be mistaken on the animal. He did not relay what others had done… But I did get the impression that such extremes were a VERY RARE occurrence. For a first time guest like us, however, it took a drive or two to get really comfortable with the idea that we were quite safe on the vehicle, and should simply follow the guide’s wise counsel since we certainly didn’t know better.

  7. Funny if a bit messy but that’s nature for you; unselfconscious and spontaneous. It comes as a shock only if you know them previously as dainty delicate dancers to Amilcare Ponchielli’s music in Disney’s Fantasia and as the protagonist in Flanders and Swann’s panegyric to mud.

    But back to rhino horns, their effectiveness as potency prop is as dubious as that of any other vaunted aphrodisiac, result is sketchy and anecdotal but as with any venereal concern, one palliates what one cannot cure.

    Not all of the harvested horns were ground down to horny powder though, a few were carved into intricate rhytons that were reputed to detect poison in beverage poured into them.

  8. Breakfast at such an ungodly hour. Perhaps relaxation and climate made it possible to stomach food so early in the day?

  9. Khew, tea and snack at 530am, 3 hour game drive with snacks during the drive, full breakfast at 900-10am, lunch at 1230-1pm, tea and snacks at 3pm, game drive 3-3.5 hours, cocktails and munchies at end of drive, dinner at 730pm — that was the drill. :)

  10. With adrenaline pumping from excitement and nervous anticipation, one needs to be prepared with nourishment for/on a 3 hour game drive.

  11. Those are white rhinos, and yes, the name comes from the Dutch (or Afrikaans) word for “wide”, referring to the animal’s lip. White rhinos are grazers, black rhinos are browsers–the lip shape is because they don’t have incisors. The black rhino has a pointed lip for pulling leaves off trees.
    If you think these were big animals, imagine meeting a prehistoric Paraceratherium. Look up the BBC programme “Walking with Beasts”.

  12. Oops, a senior moment there re comment #1 and after Footloose’s # 2. Reviewing my safari diary, it should be hippo middens, not rhinos.

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