Out and about with a rhino or two

Poaching has taken a severe toll on rhino populations throughout Africa, and today only a few thousand of these majestic animals remain. It is no wonder, then, that Botswana’s government has gone to great lengths in keeping their remaining rhinos – about 100 and rising – safe and out of reach from poachers. In doing so, they have employed the leading rhino tracker in the world, a Motswana man named Poster, to track and monitor the rhinos on a daily basis. Poster is based out of Chiefs Island in the central Delta, a vast and fertile island where many of the rhinos can be found within a few days drive.

I am very fortunate in that the company I am working with at the moment owns the only safari camp on the island, and I was lucky enough to be sent here for two weeks. This camp is the company’s flagship premier lodge, boasting the greatest game viewing in the whole of the entire Delta, and ranking in at the number one luxury safari camp in all of Africa. In an average week, the guides here will often spot over 80 different (not total..different) lions, 8 different leopards, thousands of buffalo, zebra, wildebeest, impala, lechwe...etc.... its known as the 'land of plenty' and for good reason. Needless to say, it’s a spectacular place! Anyways, since I’ve arrived, I’ve spent a great deal of time chatting with the legendary rhino tracker, and today he took me out for an exciting day of…you guessed it, rhino tracking!

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Max on the left, Rhino skull in the middle, Lion skull on the far right

There’s no denying that this humble and amazingly kind man deserves all the hype – he can literally spot a rhino footprint underneath a bush from the back of a vehicle moving 20 mph nearly 30 feet away. It’s unbelievable. And not only that, he’s spent so much time with these animals that he can even talk to them and get through to them. It sounds strange, but what I witnessed today was truly shocking. Once we approached our first rhino, a young male named Sergeant who was concealed in thick bushes, we stepped out of the vehicle to get a better look and check on his condition. A bit anxious, sergeant swooped his head around towards us and began to charge. Now, I’ve heard horror stories about rhinos – they may look big and innocent but they are actually incredibly dangerous animals… and at seeing this two ton armored horn charging right at me, I could literally feel adrenaline rush through my veins as my heart shot into panic mode. But Poster stood there and in his deep, calm voice he said ‘Sergeant, that enough! Calm down boy, that’s enough!’ and low and behold, that rhino stopped in its tracks. I was stunned, but whatever relationship Poster has with these animals, it’s out of this world.

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Poster stopping to record the coordinates of one of the rhinos

Then the two of us I casually got back on to the vehicle and drove off, spending the rest of the day tracking another four rhinos. On the way back to camp we got caught in a massive thunderstorm and got absolutely soaked from head to toe (we sit on the back of the land rover while another guy drives), but we were loving every minute of it. The rains arrived much too late this year – usually coming in September, but this was the first big shower of the year – so we reveled in the storm like kids playing in the sprinkler, literally shouting out and laughing as lighting crackled around us and thunder deafened our ears. I admire Poster, he lives a beautiful lifestyle, with nature being his office and his playground, and I hope to learn as much as I can from him before moving on to whatever’s next.

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Poster and I, soaked on the back of the truck after driving through the massive thunderstorm for nearly two hours!

Just before arriving at camp we saw a pride of lions stalking a herd of zebra so we quickly turned around and followed their pursuit. We watched as eight lions fanned through the trees, spreading out to maximize their effectiveness and chances of catching their prey. Silently, they crept ever closer to the treeline, until they made one final push and charged the waters edge where the zebra were drinking. Alarmed at the sight, the zebras frantically shot up and flew with lightning speed (almost like they were running for their lives…) away from the threat, leaving the disgruntled lions at their rear (though one female managed to catch a baby warthog in the process). Although this hunt was unsuccessful, it made the absolute perfect ending to our spectacular day, and look forward to more to come!

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this lucky lady walked away from the hunt with a tasty, albeit small, morsel – a baby warthog.

This rhino's name is Mogale, and she's quite a shy girl! or maybe she's just used to running away from men...