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The Desert Adapted Rhinos of Namibia

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The vast arid region of Damaraland, Namibia, is home to the world's largest free-ranging population of Desert Adapted Black Rhino (Diceros Bicornis). These special and unique Rhinos serve as an important stronghold for the species and proof that thoughtfully designed public/private partnerships can help save our most iconic species.

The black rhinos of Damaraland are under the vigilant protection of Save The Rhino Trust, an NGO dedicated to safeguarding them from potential poaching attempts. This is no easy task, as these rhinos freely roam across a vast 25,000km2 desert habitat in search of food and water. To counter the threat of poaching, the Save the Rhino Trust (SRT) team ventures into the field daily, carefully navigating the craggy and mountainous homeland of the black rhinos.

Once a rhino is spotted, the vehicles are stopped, and the rest of the work is carried out on foot to ensure that these beautiful, yet very shy and frequently temperamental animals are not spooked. Staying downwind is essential, as is maintaining absolute quiet. Rhinos can move incredibly fast over the rocky landscape, and with so much terrain, they can easily slip away. However, no one is better than the scientists and trackers from Save the Rhino Trust at locating these magnificent animals and ensuring their good health.

Fortunately, this extraordinary experience is not reserved for a handful of conservationists; you too can immerse yourself in the presence of these magnificent species amid millions of acres of wilderness. Several exclusive lodges provide the chance to embark on a specially designed game drive, allowing you to discover desert-adapted rhinos peacefully thriving in one of Africa's most stunning landscapes.

Trekking Desert Adapted Black Rhino On Foot
Tracking Black Rhino On Foot. Photo Wilderness Safaris

Five Interesting Facts About Desert Adapted Black Rhino

  1. They are perfectly adapted to survive tough desert conditions and can handle temperature changes from sub zero to 40 degrees celsius

  2. They have strong stomachs and are able to digest the toxic desert plant Euprobia damarana, a succulent plant that is deadly to humans if consumed but a main source of food for the rhinos of Damaraland

  3. To avoid the heat of the day black rhinos are most active at night, early morning and late afternoon. Most of their travel will occur at night and despite having notoriously bad eyesight they manage to find a way to navigate the rocky terrain

  4. Desert Adapted Rhino have huge home ranges of up to 500km2 and can even navigate rocky and treacherous mountain ledges when in search of food.

  5. While Black Rhinos in areas with ample water may drink every night the desert dwelling rhinos may only drink every third or fourth night.

The Experience: Tracking Black Rhino On Foot Experience

Finding Black Rhinos amidst hundreds of thousands of acres is no easy task; however, despite what often feels like searching for a needle in a haystack, the success rate is remarkably high A stay at a lodge partnered with Save The Rhino Trust, coupled with dedicated game drives with the specific purposes of looking for Desert Adapted Rhino, almost guarantees an encounter with Damaraland's Black Rhinos. Similar to the riveting gorilla treks of Rwanda and Uganda, your guides are the orchestrators of this experience. In particular, the Save The Rhino Trust rangers tip the balance in your favor. Armed with local wisdom and insights from their daily check-ins, they embark with an advantage to pinpoint the rhinos' whereabouts.

The pursuit starts at dawn, with your guides rousing you at 5:45 am, ready for a punctual 6:30 am departure. As your game drive vehicle sets forth, constant radio exchanges with fellow vehicles and SRT rangers funnel in, pooling the latest intelligence on the rhinos' movements. Your Black Rhino game drive unfolds in exhilarating bumps and jolts, amidst breathtaking landscapes and the potential sighting of other desert-adapted wildlife—lions, hyenas, elephants, springboks, and oryx. Upon locating the rhinos, the vehicle halts, and you disembark quietly. The exhilaration peaks as you venture on foot, drawing closer to the rhinos to glean insights about their well-being. These meticulous observations are meticulously logged, contributing to Save The Rhino Trust's comprehensive data on the rhino population.

Tracking Black Rhinos on foot unfolds as an electrifying experience—one of the continent's most distinctive and thrilling wildlife encounters and undoubtedly merits a prime slot on any itinerary visiting Damaraland.

Damaraland scenery, including the favourite food of the Black Rhino, the Euphorbia Bush.
Damaraland scenery, including the favourite food of the Black Rhino, the Euphorbia Bush.
Spotted, approaching a male rhino on foot.
Spotted, approaching a male rhino on foot.
On Foot With The Magnificent Desert Adapted Black Rhino

Where to Stay To Experience Tracking Desert Adapted Black Rhino

There are numerous lodges in Damaraland that can provide tracking of Desert Rhino on foot. Our two recommendations are Desert Rhino Camp for an upmarket offering that is set within the enormous Palmwag Concession and offers incredible service, lovely, tented rooms and one of the most serene and remote locations on the continent.

For those on a budget there is Palmwag Lodge a great choice as it holds a beautiful location on the dry banks of the Uniab River. Being a more affordable option, this isn't a place to race through and we suggest spending a number of nights and really soaking up the incredible environment you are in.

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