Pictured above, one of ten rhinos released two day’s before Kent arrived in Botswana. Image courtesy of Great Plains Conservation, &Beyond and Rhinos without Borders
In Botswana’s famed Okavango Delta, the rhino holding pen is empty. While disappointing for me personally, this is actually great news.
Ten white rhinos had arrived just two days before after their long journey by plane and truck from South Africa. After a brief acclimatization period, the gates were opened and six rhinos walked out and disappeared into the bush. Four others decided to spend the night and then did the same. By the time I arrived, we saw only their tracks.
A number of entities, including the Botswana government and private companies such as &Beyond and Great Plains Conservation, should be proud. Now, more funds need to be raised to translocate another 90.
Last year more than 1,200 rhinos were poached in South Africa alone. It’s a bitter irony, since South Africa essentially saved the species many years ago with its conservation, translocation, and breeding programs. Now, times have changed. Demand for rhino horn, primarily in Asia, has pushed prices up and poaching has become more sophisticated and deadly.
At Africa Adventure Consultants, we support Rhinos Without Borders, the joint effort between Great Plains Conservation and &Beyond, to help protect the species through translocation, monitoring and other programs. The latest effort to translocate 100 white and black rhinos into Botswana involved many entities besides the above, and also requires millions of dollars to move (and protect) 100 rhinos from South Africa to Botswana, a country with vast tracts of open land, low densities of rhino and a strong anti-poaching record. With the help of other programs like Wilderness Safaris’, the Botswana government wants to increase its total rhino population to 400 by 2016.
On my recent visit, the floods were arriving in the lower Okavango Delta giving guests the choice of taking relaxing mokoro rides, speedier powerboat safaris and traditional game drives. Highlights for me included as search for wild dogs which resulted in a great leopard sighting (you have to go with the flow on safari!), and fishing which resulted in a happy fisherman and a briefly unhappy pike (although I did throw him back as they are not that good to eat).
Certainly, the highlight of my trip was Sandibe. Newly rebuilt from the ground up at great expense, the new 5-star Sandibe has 12 dramatic stilted chalets, made of light woods, mesh, and decking. Each chalet has a plunge pool and view of the bush. The main area, a combined dining area, lounge, bar and deck, resembles a giant pangolin and includes a creatively built bar and second deck stretching out towards the waters of the Delta. And while the camp itself is impressive, the excellent game viewing is the real reason to visit. In just two days, we saw a lioness with two small cubs, three leopards (including two mating, which was a first for me), a lioness making a half-hearted effort to hunt and a male cheetah making a full effort, resulting in a dead impala. This is all above and beyond the usual plains game, great elephants and much more.
I also enjoyed Nxai Pan National Park. Here, I stayed at Nxai Pan Camp with nine large suites overlooking a popular water hole. Best visited between November to March when the great herds of zebras and other wildlife come in following the rains, this vast tract of scrubland also boasts tons of elephants, along with kudu, impala and other game.
But back to the rhino. Once introduced, nobody knows where the rhino will go. The hope is that they will spread throughout the Delta so that poachers won’t find them but tourists can have a chance to see them. You can support the relocation effort by taking our Botswana Rhino Safari, and somebody, you might be able to see a rhino at the camps in this great itinerary.See Our Botswana Save The Rhino Safari