We were not quite sure of what to expect – some kind of zoo or rhinos roaming around in the wilderness? Even after we arrived it was hard to tell. Apart from passing a guarded gate, nothing hints at the extreme measures necessary to protect the 10 rhinos that live in the 77 hectare large park. All we knew was that we could not wait to see these massive animals. Only once had we caught a distant glimpse of them in Tanzania. So within an hour after checking into our modest little room near the park head quarters, Raymond Opio, our guide, was directing our jeep along dirt roads. The longish trip increased our suspense. The park seemed huge!
At one point we had to continue on foot – the rangers had radioed in which way the rhinos were moving. Nevertheless we worried. Would we really find them? That moment a female plus two young ones (which does not mean small!) broke through the bushes, marching straight towards us. Our brain was in overdrive, even though we knew that rhinos had very poor eye-sight. Should we get out of their way or take photos first? Raymond made the decision for us and pulled us aside.
Later he explained us that it was their senses of smell and hearing that were very sharp. No, they would not just simply march over us. He tried to enlighten us with many more facts, the differences between White and Black Rhinos, the history of the Rhino Fund and so forth. We really tried to pay attention, but could not take our eyes off these creatures.
By then a large male rhino had joined the group, nevertheless keeping a good distance. In the afternoon sun the skin of the younger animals had a reddish glow, which made them almost cuddly. Our initial feeling of slight fear was completely gone and we were only smiling. Peacefully the rhino family was grazing and wandering about, with us following in a respectful distance.
Obama, the first White Rhinoceros born in Uganda since 1983, is everybody’s darling. Born in 2009 to an American mother donated by Disney World and a Kenyan father, he represents the very successful start of re – introducing rhinos to protected areas in Uganda. His parents arrived in 2005 and two more rhino babies were born since 2009.
The entire visit was rather emotional. Apart from seeing these unique animals, it was also moving to talk to the knowledgeable and devoted protectors of these large mammals.