On a photographic safari in a remote part of north-western Namibia we encountered a black rhino bull browsing in a small riverbed. He was roughly 200 metres away from us and we had the wind in our favour, which allowed us to watch him and take numerous pictures without causing any disturbance.
The rhino was slowly moving along while browsing and at some point became aware of our presence. During almost 20 years of guiding I have gained huge respect for the extremely sensitive sense of smell and the hearing abilities of rhinos. Due to their fairly poor eyesight, rhino bulls can sometimes be very inquisitive when they become aware of intruders in their home ranges.
Now curious, the rhino gradually approached our vehicle while still browsing and did not appear to be overly concerned about our presence. Each encounter with dangerous animals is different and you have to constantly monitor the situation while taking many factors into account in order to make the right decision when the situation becomes unmanageable. I decided that we should stay put because starting the vehicle’s engine would cause unnecessary disturbance.
We silently watched this magnificent animal approach us one step at a time. All you could hear was the shutters of cameras and our adrenalin-spiked breathing inside the vehicle. With less than twenty metres separating us, the rhino finally decided to remove the intruders from his area. An inquisitive stroll suddenly turned into an all-out charge of 1.6 tonnes of trouble with a sharp end approaching at about 40 km/h!
Fortunately the rhino had brakes! Or maybe it was my slapping against the body of the Land Rover that caused it to stop less than ten meters away in a huge cloud of dust. He started moving again and ran away from us in a half circle, then stood there looking at us, probably contemplating whether he needed to go at us again.
To minimize disturbance we immediately left the scene. Fortunately, only our egos were bruised and we decided to lick our wounds with sundowners, before heading to our camp.
I’m not sure how I managed to take pictures, but I was lucky enough to capture some moments of this heart-pounding experience. It’s not something that you would go and look for, but sometimes it is unavoidable and just happens. This is my Namibia.
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