The road map had Ziwa rhino sanctuary as being off the main road and onto a side road - also this appeared to be to the north of the main Kampal Gulu highway. This of course is rubbish. Stay on the main road, and the sanctuary is well signposted as you reach the village of Nakitoma and is south of the main road.
Once you come off the main road it is rough murram (clay/mud) tracks to the gate and then the park headquarters.
We are made very welcome by the staff, who are very friendly if a little disorganised. I had made booking for camping here, but I'm not sure they were really expecting us. We are shown to the campsite, which looks suspiciously like a corral for holding rhinos in. But Winnie, the campsite manager, assures us that the steel barred fencing is to keep the rhinos out - they were fighting here last night.
We unpacked our new table and chairs, opened a bottle of wine, set up the tent and relaxed in the cacophony of birdsong, frog squawking and insect buzzing.
|Ziwa's rhino proof campsite|
There is a basic shower block- no hot water, but it is very hot so no need really.
We ate in the restaurant - tasty basic food, and nice cold beer. Electricity is not always on, but paraffin lamps are put out if required. The noise of the cicadas is almost deafening.
Our first night in the tent is enlivened by a two hour thunder storm that passed right over head. Very loud, very bright and some very heavy rain. My guidebooks say that September is the dry season, but the locals disagree.
Up at 6.15 - made own toast on camp frying pan, with peanut butter (yes you can buy it here - local brand, tastes like wholemeal) and white bread. Instant coffee and orange juice. We were still late for 8.00am start to our rhino trek.
Our guide is Fred, and we are the only 2 going out with him. A larger group has just arrived at the park, but they are trekking after us. Fred suggests we take our car - but as we had left it at the campsite a decision is made to walk to where the rhinos are. This turns out to be about 15 mins along a track and then through some marshy forest.
You are given rubber boots to wear as it is very wet in places, but it is easy walking and not too hot. It is also very easy to find the rhinos as they are accompanied by armed rangers 24/7 to ensure their safety. Our guide contacted the rangers and guided us to meet a mature female called Bella and her young daughter called Donna (9 months). Bella is a relaxed kind of rhino, and seems completely unconcerned by our presence. The white rhino is much more placid than the black. You wouldn't stand 20m away from a black rhino and not expect to be chased.
Bella and Donna were shortly joined by Bella's older calve Augustu (3 years). We watched amazed as these 3 grazed happily on the new green grass that the rain had provided. Every now and then Donna would peer at us and start heading our way, we would then just walk quietly away until she became more interested in the grass again.
Fred explained that we were very lucky to see them up and about, as usually by this time in the morning they are sleeping in the shade. But with the weather being a little cooler we were seeing them in feeding mode. Most visitors only see the rhinos sleeping away the day in the bushes. He then asked us if we would like to see more rhino - of course we said yes. And over the next couple of hours we were introduced to Taleo the dominant bull, his two other wives and the rest of his children. Meaning that we saw 10 out of the 12 rhinos in Uganda. Only the two lower ranked males were no-where to be seen. Taleo obviously likes to keep the ladies to himself.