Desert Rhino Camp

Getting on the Wrong Side of a Desert-Adapted Black Rhino

Our Collective


Anton Kruger


In February 2020 I spent three days in the magical desert landscape of Desert Rhino Camp’s concession in north-west Namibia’s Kunene Region. The focus of this vast area is the conservation of desert-adapted black rhinos. These are the last truly wild and free black rhinos on Earth, which have no fences restricting their movements. Please read more on the conservation success story and wonderful work of the Save the Rhino Trust in my previous article.

After spending a successful morning with the Save the Rhino Trust trackers and enjoying lunch out in the wilderness, we decided not to head back to camp but rather explore the concession in search of other desert-adapted wildlife. We focused on an area called “Green” close to the junction of the Aub and Uniab Rivers. We came across lion tracks but were unable to locate them. These desert-adapted lions move great distances in search of food and water, and luck wasn’t on our side… for now…

Around 15h30 we found a mother black rhino called Onjami and her eight-year-old calf (a real mommy’s boy, as they usually separate from their mothers at around four years of age). We decided to observe them from a distance and wait for the light to improve, to enhance our photographic opportunities.

After about two hours of enjoying their presence, Bons (my guide) decided it was time for an afternoon coffee break to provide us with the necessary energy as the golden hour was creeping upon us. While plunging coffee, with the wonderful aromas filling the game drive vehicle, sudden mayhem erupted! The two black rhinos were charging at full speed… but not towards us. Their energy was directed to the tall reeds surrounding the natural spring. We were caught totally off guard as they chased two lionesses out of the reeds!

The final two hours of sunlight provided us with an astonishing sighting, as the black rhinos continually tried to locate the lions, and the lions kept on trying to avoid the rhinos. It was a hot summer’s day in the desert – and neither of them was keen to take on the barren mountainside in full sun by leaving the shady area around the spring.

In the end the rhinos gave up first and moved out of the area, leaving the lions in peace. The lions immediately relaxed, and even provided us with an opportunity to take some yawning photos in lovely light. After sunset they too decided it was cool enough to move on, ending our incredible day on an even higher note!

Edward Abbey once wrote: “What draws us into the desert is the search for something intimate in the remote”. I was fortunate enough to be treated to an intimate encounter in the remote desert landscape of Desert Rhino Camp…

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