“We want to see a rhino,” we told the hostel manager. “Then you want to go on this game drive,” she said, pulling out a pamphlet. Several days later we were being picked up in a safari vehicle by Patrick, our incredibly knowledgeable, and obviously passionate, guide.
“Welcome to my office,” Patrick joked as he opened the game reserve gates. “Any requests?” ”Rhinos,” we chimed. Patrick explained that Stanley & Livingstone Game Reserve was part of the black rhino breeding program, an effort to increase the population of this endangered animal. The reserve started with three rhinos and now has nine. “There’s no guarantee we’ll see one,” he cautioned, “but we will try.” Will and I tempered our expectations as we bounced around in the back of the safari truck.
The drive started with some elephants and giraffes. This was our first game drive, so we were excited.
As the sun started to go down, Patrick took us to the area where they sometimes see the rhinos. Straining our eyes in anticipation…we saw a beautiful sable instead. It’s unusual to see the sable, a relative of the zebra. We began to believe this would be the highlight of the evening.
There was one more spot to try, though, Patrick assured us. There were several man-made watering troughs that the rhinos frequented. We pulled around a bend, and there he was. A dinosaur among animals.
Two skittish zebras waited patiently for the rhino to finish drinking, keeping a safe distance.
The male rhino finished and began to walk around the area, marking his territory with spray pee. Just then, we spotted Mama Rhino and Baby Rhino approaching from a distance.
THREE RHINOS. We couldn’t believe it.
The male, who we learned was indeed Daddy Rhino, postured to claim the watering hole and Mama Rhino gave him a run for his money.
Ceding the area, Daddy Rhino spray peed a few more bushes on his way out, but ultimately exited the scene.
Mama and Baby enjoyed a drink and then Baby had its dinner. At that point, Mama noticed us and stared, so we headed on for our sundowner (when you have a drink and watch the sun go down…a safari tradition.)
We couldn’t believe our luck – three rhinos, including a baby and a FIGHT! It was not only a highlight of Zimbabwe, but a highlight of the entire trip.