Dominated by Nature

Sabi Sand | December 2016

It was a beautiful early morning with partial cloud cover which made it comfortable to be out in the field. Every now and then I turned off the engine of the Land Rover just to listen to the sounds of the wild. Nature has its way of communicating and passing on information to those that can use it, and I have learned to take advantage of this opportunity.

On this particular day I performed the same trick of trying to work out how much information was being passed around in the bush, this does help in calming oneself down and testing one’s hearing abilities and just to check which sounds are familiar and those that are strange to the ear. As we stopped the vehicle to listen, a flock of red-billed oxpeckers happened to be in the area flying over us. While we watched and I started talking about who they were and who they hang out with, they just dropped out of the sky not too far from where we were. So the question was, what do you think is there?

Martin (our tracker) and I exchanged a look, and we went off on foot to find out. The result was a big rhino bull that was feeding behind a large termite mound. The suggestion I made was too good to turn down – let us attempt to do an approach on foot! All four guests lined up, and we were off to find this big rhino.
We walked more than 50 meters before we saw the animal, but what we saw was a lot smaller than the bull. I realised straight away that there were more rhinos in the area! I heard a familiar sound behind us, as Martin was whistling to get my attention. He pointed at a large animal walking straight towards us, and we had found our rhino bull… or rather he had found us! There was no doubt in my mind that the animal was now trailing us, and we had to get ourselves out of this predicament!

We headed downwind of what turned out to be a rhino cow and calf, with the massive bull showing interest in us. It was easy to sidestep the cow and calf – they did not even know we were there – but the big bull was still trailing us, and we needed to lose him. He was not aggressive, but he was there, large as life, and making our lives a little bit uncomfortable with every step he took. We were walking as fast as we reasonably could, but for every one step we took, he seemed to take two and a half! Fortunately, he would stop to scent-mark every now and then. In the end, I asked Martin to take the guests and lead them away from the animal, so Martin and the guests went behind a bush, and I came out for the rhino to see. This tactic worked, because he came walking towards me, but keeping a distance. Once the guests were back on the vehicle, I climbed a termite mound and then hid on the other side of it. I saw the rhino jogging towards the mound, so I made my way briskly around it and back to the Land Rover, keeping the mound between me and the rhino. Martin was in the driver’s seat of the Land Rover and, thankfully, met me halfway.