Safari Day 7 – Rhino Tracking

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July 19th 2014
Published: July 19th 2014
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This marks final day of our safari. Oh the sadness! It's hard to choose which activities were favourites on this trip, but today's activity was definitely up there. Any chance to get within a short proximity to wild and endangered animals are pretty damn exciting for me.

We all hop into the jeep to make the journey to the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary for some rhino tracking. We were told this would be another day of mild hiking and good footwear is essential, so I try to locate my hiking shoes as we get in the vehicle. Note: I've been keeping them in the jeep during the night as they were muddy and disgusting from the gorilla hike and I don't want to subject whoever I'm rooming with that night to smell. Good thing I checked for them right away, because they were missing. We try unloading all the bags to check the back, but they're not there. Check the rooms, not there. Rip apart my suitcase, not there. The jeep was cleaned the evening before by staff at the hotel, so we interrogate them to see if they've seen them. No luck. Ugh, you've got to be kidding me. I'm so choked at this because not only were they new and not cheap, but I need them everyday I'm working in the field with the goat project. Silas, and the girls think they must have fallen out of the vehicle at some point when the door was open. I'm positive I would have noticed, but they all assume I'm crazy. I sadly accept my loss and give up on finding them.

Not even 20 minutes from leaving the hotel, Leandra realizes that her rain jacket has also gone missing from the jeep, and then Heather notices her reusable water bottle was gone. Ha! I'm not crazy! Other things are missing! Silas remembers seeing the jacket and water bottle when emptying out the car so we know that at least they were at the hotel at some point. We make a U-turn on the highway and go back to the hotel. Unfortunately, the staff all plays dumb and no one has seen any of our things. Realizing our belongings were long gone, we hang our heads in defeat and get back in the jeep.

When we arrive at the rhino sanctuary, our guide quickly briefs us on some of the history of rhinos in Uganda and goes over the safety precautions. There are two types of rhinos in Africa, the black rhino and the white rhino. We would be tracking the Southern White Rhino, which is less aggressive than the black and is the only rhino that currently remains in the country. In fact, the only wild rhinos that still live in Uganda are within the confinement of the park and were actually declared extinct in the country in 1983 due to extreme poaching. Within recent years, Rhino Fund Uganda has been importing rhinos from around the world in hopes of having them reproduce and develop stable populations again. Interestingly enough, they received one from the US, and a couple from Kenya, and when they mated and had a baby they named it Obama. Pretty cute, hey? In time they hope to increase the rhino population numbers enough so they can distribute rhinos to parks around the country. Some interesting tidbits about rhinos: they can run up to 45km/hour, their gestation length is about 16 months and an adult male can weigh up to three tons.

The guide also went over the survival tips in case one of the rhinos charged at us; we were tracking them on foot, after all. Rhinos actually have incredibly poor eyesight and if we stay about 30 feet in front of them they can't see us. They have no natural predators, so don't have to worry much about getting attacked, so they're actually quite calm creatures. But in the event they see us and feel threatened they will have no problem charging us and flattening us like a chapatti. So when viewing them, we should try to stay close to trees and immediately climb up one if one charges; their heads are so heavy they can't raise them high enough to impale us if we're quick enough to scramble up to higher branches. Excellent, I'm sure climbing a tree in a pair of sandals will be easy. I hope whoever stole my hikers, knows he's putting my life in danger just so he could own a pair of stinky shoes. If the tree climbing fails, which was already likely in my case, even if I had proper footwear, you're supposed to hide behind a tree or in bushes and hope that they lose sight
of you. Seems reasonably safe.

I begin the trek and hope for the best. And honestly the best is what we got! We came across a mother and her young, three month old baby as they were feeding in a clearing. These animals don't even look real, they're more like dinosaurs or something out of the prehistoric era. And the baby was adorable! Again, another pot-bellied animal reminding me of my Monty back home. We saw them at the perfect time, and witnessed the rare sight of the baby nursing; the young only feed once or twice a day. The little one seemed much more curious of the noises us onlookers were making and tended to walk towards us. We always tried to move just out of the way though; don't want to anger mom. Once when the baby was walking towards us it got spooked and did a little jump and skipped back to mom, exactly as a young calf or colt would do. It took everything we had not to say, “awwwww!!!” too loud.

Like all good things, this safari had to come to an end, and once we finished up with
the rhinos we had to make our way back to Entebbe. Luck must have been on our side though, as we were on the road, the hotel called and they found all our belongings! Apparently, they were “mistaken for rubbish” and got tossed into the trash. None of us believe a word of that, but hey, we were able to get our things back. Between my shoes and my yellow fever card I'm two for two so far on this trip.

The following morning, Thea, Leandra and Heather would board a plane and have to say goodbye to Uganda, so we all decided to go out for a nice meal at the very first restaurant we ate at way back in May. Maybe because we were used to life in Uganda now, but the restaurant appeared WAY nicer than the first time we ate there, so much so that we asked if it was renovated. Apparently, our standards for high class dining have changed some. We decided to splurge with a three course meal and a couple bottles of wine, in total costing each of us less than $20. Man, that is one thing I'll miss about
this place.

We were sufficiently stuffed and in a food coma, with the best Indian food I've had since being in India, but decided to head out for the night to a local bar and watch the World Cup soccer game with Silas and his friends. The bar was actually really nice, with a projector playing the game on a wall outside, while inside remained a night club for those who wanted to practice their twerk skills. Most of you know, I'm not much of a sports fan but I can enjoy a game or two from time to time. This was not one of those times! Holy shit, this was the most boring two? Three? Six? Or however many hours this match was, of my life! Netherlands were playing Argentina and there was not a single goal. Not one! Finally, it ended in a shoot out and we made our way home, cold and exhausted, at 3am.

Anyways, that's the end of the mini series of safari blogs! I know not many people can afford it, myself included, but if you ever get the chance, please go on one! I justify it, claiming that it was an investment into my career and more of a learning experience rather than simply tourism (ha!). It was such a wonderful experience to see animals behaving normally in their natural habitat and not having to watch them stressfully pace back and forth through the bars of a zoo. There is a good chance that at least some of the animals I saw will go extinct during my lifetime and I feel so fortunate to have seen them while I had the chance. Hope you enjoyed all the stories and pictures!


20th July 2014

Great reading all your blogs Sarah! Certainly made us add an African Safari to our "bucket list"!

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