The Best African Lodges for Rhino Sightings

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Senior Africa Travel Designer

Rhino are one of Africa’s most iconic animals and the chance to see them in the wild is high on many visitors’ safari bucket lists. The poaching epidemic they face across the continent is well publicised and, whilst the range of places they can be seen is more limited than those in which Africa’s other headline wildlife are spotted, there are still plenty of areas and specific camps which offer remarkable rhino spotting experience. This is thanks in no small part to the huge conservation efforts from NGOs such as Save The Rhino and the private sector, where lodge owners have sunk vast sums of money into relocating and constantly protecting these majestic creatures. Whether you are able to spot the larger and altogether more docile white rhino, or the small and on occasion aggressive black rhino, encounters with them are incredible and your guides will be able to tell you more about these gentle giants of the bush, as well as the endless work being done to protect them and grow their numbers in the wild.

1. Wilderness Desert Rhino Camp, Damaraland, Namibia

As the name would suggest, this is a camp where the emphasis of the visit is on seeing rhinos out in the wild. Found in the remote northern part of Damaraland’s Palmwag Concession, an area renowned for being ideal terrain for black rhino, a stay here is a must if you want to get up close and personal.

Run in conjunction with the Save The Rhino Foundation by Wilderness Safaris, the camp itself is in the upper echelons of Namibian camps’ in its own right, but it is the chance to track these majestic pachyderms that draws people here. Head off early with your guide to meet some of the Save The Rhino Team and explore the concession, first by vehicle and then on foot, to get as close as you can to the rhinos.

Along the way you will learn about how they have adapted to live in such a harsh desert environment, as well as the benefits and challenges that operating in such a remote location brings the STR team. This is a full day out with a minimum age of 16, so it isn’t for everyone, but those who really want to get under the skin of Africa and its conservation projects will jump at the chance to spend some time here.

2. AndBeyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Nestled on the rim of the world-famous Ngorongoro Crater, the eponymous lodge by the outstanding andBeyond is the place to be in Tanzania if you want rhino sightings. Generally sandwiched in between time in the mighty Serengeti National Park and the smaller parks such as Tarangire and Lake Manyara to the east, the crater is the only place with free roaming rhino. The nature of the crater acts as a natural “trap” for wildlife and helps protect the rhino from poachers, as well as keeping them in a defined area making them far easier to spot. Whilst it is doubtless that this is a much busier destination to see them than in other areas, the chance to spot them whilst on safari in one of Africa’s most iconic destinations is a huge drawcard.

The guides from Crater Lodge know the area as well as anyone and will do their utmost to ensure that you have as much time with the rhinos as possible, aiming to find them early in the morning or later in the afternoon when the crowds are more dispersed.

3. Saruni Rhino, Sera Community Conservancy, Kenya

Another camp whose existence owes much to the presence of these iconic creatures, Saruni Rhino offers guests the chance to walk in the wild Samburu National Reserve for up close and personal encounters. The activities focus on exploring the Sera Community Conservancy, which is home to 20 black rhino and is one of the few places that offers really close up encounters on foot. This is in no small part thanks to the skill and intuition of their Samburu guides who have come to love these beautiful creatures that live under their constant care.

Less well celebrated than some of the more established rhino sanctuaries in Kenya’s Laikipia region, a visit to Saruni Rhino is a wonderful experience and will allow for a very private rhino viewing experience, with a maximum of 10 guests in the camp at any one time.

The accommodation is simple yet comfortable, with open-fronted rooms sited to gaze out into the bush. Meals are enjoyed in the main area and your hosts will be able to offer a range of other activities whilst always offering the chance to see the rhinos for which the camp is named.

4. Duba Plains Camp, Okavango Delta, Botswana

Botswana isn’t somewhere renowned for rhino sightings, with the bulk of the population poached during the 1980s and 90s, leaving just a handful in private sanctuaries around the country, well away from the main tourist areas. This all changed in the mid 2010s when Rhinos without Borders relocated some 100 animals from Zimbabwe and South Africa into the Okavango Delta.

Now a large portion of these animals can be found on the large floodplains of the northern Okavango Delta, an area only accessible from the beautiful Duba Plains Camp. Protected 24 hours a day by their “rhino guardians” the guides are aware of where they are at all times but still manage to make the sightings of them a very exciting and rewarding experience. They often congregate in large groups out on the plains so the sightings are truly remarkable and a visit to Duba Plains is a highlight of any Botswana safari and a unique chance to see rhino in a country where their numbers are sadly very low.

Okavango Delta - Duba Plains - Botswana

5. Dulini Leadwood, Sabi Sand Wildtuin, South Africa

South Africa’s fabled Sabi Sand is renowned as being one of the most consistent wildlife viewing destinations in the world and rhino feature strongly in their list of headline animals. It boasts the rare chance to see both black and white rhino in the same ecosystem and they are found throughout the reserve.

However, we feel that Dulini Leadwood, a stunning luxury lodge in the western part of the reserve is one of the best places to see them as 16kms of river frontage run through the concession, offering access to water, as well as a diversity of habitat along the riverbanks that supports both species. The guides here are especially passionate about getting guests close to rhino, be it on a game drive or on a guided bush walk if they are looking to walk close to white rhino.

The unique set up of the Sabi Sand, with a limit of 2 vehicles per wildlife sighting also makes this a great area to see them with uninterrupted photography opportunities and little limit on the amount of time that you can spend with them. With virtually guaranteed sightings, this should be very high on your list if you are looking to see rhino in the wild in South Africa

Whilst it should be noted that rhinos are very much still wild animals and, as such, sightings of them are far from guaranteed, the presence of rangers looking after them 24 hours a day in all locations where they are found does make sightings of them much easier to come by. Some criticism is levelled that owing to their rangers sightings of them can feel contrived on occasion, but lodges and guides work very hard to ensure that this isn’t the case and that guests feel they are getting an authentic safari experience. Owing to protecting the location of rhino, guides ask that guests don’t share the specific location (via GPS or other method) of rhinos that they have seen, which helps to protect them and ensure that these truly remarkable creatures have a long term future in the wilds of Africa.

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