Best Walking With Rhino Experience In Africa:

There may be others, but I had the good fortune of walking with rhinos in 3 different African countries; Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Uganda. Which one was best? For me they were all tremendous experiences and of course you are in nature so a visit today could be very different from one tomorrow. I will try to explain the differences below to give you some insight.

Of course if you are visiting just one of those countries your rhino walk at any of these locations will be memorable.

Zimbabwe:

In 2017 I was on an overland Camping Safari and we stopped in Bulawayo, about 440 kilometers south southeast of Victoria Falls. We camped at Burke’s Paradise, but they also had rooms which I upgraded to. That evening we met our guide, Ian Harmer, whose family has lived here since the 1890’s. We did a full day tour to Matobo National Park, and since I was with a group it was relatively inexpensive and included with our Camping Safari from Malawi to Cape Town. . There is nothing quite like walking in the African bush where there is always a level of fear. Much more exhilarating than a game drive. The morning had us tracking rhinos and we came across a mother and her 2 month old. We had 18 or so in our group so we did not get too close. Perhaps 10 meters away. Incredible nonetheless. In the early afternoon Ian guided us on a walk up to a Bushmen cave with drawings from 1,000 to 38,000 years old. The paints were made with animal bile and urine acids etched into stone enabling them to last so long. I loved his stories of the Bushmen. Only 3 to 5,000 left in the world. Anyway for another $50 he led a smaller group of 6 just before sunset and we found a group of 4 rhinos that we followed for a half hour getting as close as 3-4 meters. So incredible. I got my pictures out of the way and just enjoyed the last 15 minutes hanging with these incredible up to 3 ton prehistoric creatures. This whole day I will never forget. I came for the rhinos but the stories of the Bushmen were equally worth the long journey here. His website is www.safaribookings.com/p136.

You’ll notice these rhinos have no horns. They have been cut off as a rhino horn can be worth as much as $90,000. Cut off the horn which is like our fingernails made of keratin. They grow back. However, the rhinos are not worth poaching when they have no horns. So I don’t mind that they have no horns.

Zambia:

Visiting Victoria Falls for the 2023 Christmas and New Year Holidays, we walked across the bridge spanning the Zambesi River the Falls to our right. Our destination Livingstone, where we got an inexpensiv room at Fawlty Towers Hostel.

On New Year’s Eve we were picked up at 6AM along with another couple by our guide in an open roof game drive vehicle. It was a short 15 minute drive to Mosi Oa Tunya(which means “smoke that thunders” and is the local name for Victoria Falls) National Park where we stopped on the shore of the Zambesi enjoying the sunrise across the river. After getting instructions and being introduced to our Ranger who would follow us with his rifle for protection we proceeded in the vehicle deeper into the park. We then walked for about 1 ½ hours seeing a few impalas and giraffes we cam across a single large alpha male rhino perhaps as heavy as 3 tons. We followed him taking pictures for about 20 minutes and then I tried to just enjoy his company for the final 20 minutes. Though it was my second time it was still an intense rush being in the presence of such a magnificent creature. We then proceeded in our vehicle back to the river and enjoyed some cold drinks and cake. I thought that was it and was quite happy. However, we then followed the river still in the Park seeing more impala, wildebeest, zebra, and lots of birds. We were back at Fawlty Towers before noon. Fantastic half day tour for $90 which you can organize at Fawlty Towers or any accommodation in Livingstone.

Mosi Oa Tunya is easily the most accessible of the 3 rhino viewing locations being just a few minutes from “The Smoke That Thunders”.

Uganda:

In January we did a five day safari into the Serengeti in Tanzania but that is another story. By the time we made it to Uganda we thought visiting the chimpanzees would be the end of our animal safaris. However, staying at the pleasant Rwenzori View Guesthouse in Fort Portal, I was talking with a Ugandan and he mentioned that the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary a few hundred kilometers north of Kampala was home to 42 rhinos and offered rhino walking. Well we have plenty of time so why not. We took a long 10 hour bus to Masindi and then got a local mini bus to the dirt road 15 kilometers from the Ziwa Lodge. We then took 2 motorbike taxis (boda bodas) to the Lodge.

The Park Fee to enter was only $50 and I was surprised that it covered our entire stay of 3 nights. The room at the Lodge was basic but very clean, and had a comfortable bed with mosquito netting for $90 per night. If on a budget you can camp with your own tent for $20 per person. They provide a tent for $30 per person. A buffet breakfast is included or cooked to order if they are not full, but not free for campers. The restaurant is open aired and if you are lucky there will be rhinos not too far away. When we arrived and had dinner there were 3 rhinos about 50 meters from us. The second morning I came out and was startled to see 2 rhinos in the parking area between the restaurant and our room. Just 15 meters from me. The third morning was incredible as I came out early a bit before 7AM and there were 3 large rhinos no more than 7-10 meters from the restaurant. 2 of them were courting and had were facing each other with their horns touching. At first I thought they were preparing to fight and then the one on the right had a massive erection. At one point one of them approached me and I had to back off from the restaurant fence as he wanted to rub his horn on the metal bars.

On our first morning Mika and I were the only guests as we joined our armed guide, Batinda. We didn’t have to walk far as there were 2 rhinos just 100 meters from the Lodge. We stayed with them for 20 minutes or so and then 5 minutes later came across 2 large rhinos with a young one. With just the three of us Batinda allowed us to get within 5-7 meters. Absolutely fantastic. Later we came across two more and followed them. It was only 10:00 by this time so we kept walking which was great but saw no more rhinos. Great morning.

Batinda explained that rhinos were eradicated in Uganda by the 1970’s from poaching. Two rhinos were brought here from Kenya in the early 2000’s and then some were donated from Orlando Florida. The first offspring was born in 2008 from a Kenyan male and an American female. Of course they called the newborn, “Obama”.


The second morning I asked and was told we could join today’s group. There were 5 others with our group, once again led by Batinda. He didn’t let us get as close this time but it was still special as we came across ten rhinos. We spent about an hour following a group of 8. So special.


On the third morning I did a nature walk with a new guide. Just the two of us. Learning about plant medicines and such. Very interesting and we saw a few rhinos but did not stop for two long. At one point we were walking through some dense bush. Turning a corner we almost bumped into a single very big rhino. We couldn’t of been more than 3 meters away from him. Fortunately he seemed indifferent as he glanced at us and went right backi to munching on the grass.

So which one was best?

The visit with Ian Harmer in Zimbabwe was special as it was my first time and was enhanced by the visit to the Bushmen caves. Zambia was good because of the convenience. But I would have to say Ziwa was the best for me because of so much interaction with the rhinos. Not only were we able to walk with the rhinos, but those morning encounters made it a truly spectacular experience.

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Happy to answer any questions and help in any way.