Tag Archives: rhinos

Botsalano Game Reserve

I blogged a week or so ago about the Black wildebeest at Botsalano Game Reserve near Mafikeng in South Africa.  This was such a lovely stop over that I thought I would tell you more about it today.  We stayed there on our way to Botswana as it enabled us to have an early border crossing at the Ramatlabana border post, which is only a few kilometers away.  Not only was the camping and game viewing excellent, but the border crossing proved stress-free and easy, unlike some of the busier and more popular border control points further north.

Campsite at Botsalano Game Reserve

We opted to stay in their bush camp called Kukama and not in the public campsite that is near the gate.  There is nothing wrong with the public site, but we have been spoilt over the years preferring wild and isolated camps where game wanders freely around us.  The site had a stone shelter and a very basic open air shower which we had to share with one of the locals – a leguaan.  He was very obliging about letting us use it!

Water monitor in our shower

Frankly we were amazed at the amount of game in the reserve.  We saw far more there than in the popular Hhluhwe and Umfolozi game reserves in Kwazulu Natal, which is strange because one hears more about these flagship reserves than Botsalano.  Granted Botsalano is off the overseas tourist route, but for sheer numbers and variety, plus having two of the Big Five (buffalo and rhinos), I would say that Botsalano deserves more attention.  So if any South Africans are wondering where to go for a few days of magic camping, this is the place!

Beautiful Waterbuck

The birding in the park was also pretty good, especially when we sat at the waterhole.  From the elevated hide we not only had birds at eye level in the trees around us, but watched as a Secretarybird ambled down to the water for a drink.  Lots of  sand grouse came down as well and in the area behind the hide we saw a variety of waxbills, canaries and starlings.  We also watched two Pale chanting goshawks  making a meal of a dove.

White rhinocerus

White rhinos breed well in the park and so do Eland, which we saw in great numbers.  One only hopes that greedy poachers won’t get their hands on any of the rhinos. This photo gives you an idea of the herds of antelope that head down to the waterhole during the day.

On the way down to the waterhole

There was a good variety of antelopes, like Waterbuck, Blesbok, Kudu, Eland and the smaller more shy ones.  The staff were very helpful and polite too.  We had a giggle when we asked whether there were any aardvarks in the park.  The receptionist said that she had seen them often – one just as recently as two days before.  Knowing that aardvark sightings are generally as rare as hen’s teeth and one is only ever likely to get a glimpse of one once in a lifetime, we gathered that she must have confused the aardvark with a warthog – but then again, I may be wrong and she may be the luckiest lady in the world!  I’m still dying to photograph an aardvark – the one and only time we saw one near Windhoek, we were so amazed at what walked out of the bush in front of us that it disappeared before we had a chance to lift a camera.  Got to be quick about these things….  If anyone out there knows where we are most likely to see one, do drop us a line.

If you’re ever around Mafikeng, do pay this lovely park a visit.  You won’t be disappointed.


The Big Five – Part Four – Rhinoceros

Over the past three weeks I have blogged about the animals known in southern Africa as ‘The Big Five.”  Today it’s the turn of the rhinoceros, of which there are two species in our region – the Black rhinoceros and the White rhinoceros.  As I stated before, the Big Five get their name from being the most dangerous and difficult animals to track and hunt, and the rhinoceros is therefore not a docile animal by any means.  Although rhinos have poor eyesight, their sense of smell and hearing is highly developed and, combined with the ability to run at high speeds, they can be quite deadly when they break into a charge and use their horns for ramming their victims.  They often charge for no apparent reason, probably to determine whether an object is a threat to them or not.

White rhino - broad flat lip

These enormous beasts have a prehistoric appearance with their thick hides folding over their legs and shoulders to look almost as if they are wearing a suit of armour.  They sport two horns on their long faces – a small one at the back and a large one in the front.  Their name is derived from the Latin meaning nose and horn.  The horns are made of keratin, the same composition as our hair and nails.  Unfortunately for the rhinoceros, their horns are believed to have medicinal properties and for this reason they are being poached into extinction as they fetch extremely high prices on the black market.  See my blog  “Where have all the rhinos gone” about this serious problem.

Black rhino - prehensile lip easily visible

The two African species are easy to identify by the different shapes of their mouths.  Black rhinos have prehensile upper lips because they are browsers, whilst White rhinos have wide square lips that are suitable for grazing.  They both have barrel-shaped bodies, but differ in size, with the Black rhino being much smaller than the White rhino.  The browsers prefer a diet of branches, thorns and leaves so their habitat is treed or bushy, and the grazers mainly eat short grass which is found in more open bushveld.  Both require plenty of drinking water and enjoy wallowing in mud to cool themselves down.  Black rhinos are solitary and moody as opposed to the more sociable White rhinos which live in small groups with a territorial male.

Mother and baby White rhinoceros

Females have a single calf, born throughout the year after a gestation period of about 16 months.  Calves remain with their mothers for up to four years and when they are seen together, the calf is usually walking in front of its mother.

Black rhinoceros

If they are left alone by poachers, rhinos have a life expectancy of between 40 and 45 years.  Their main predator is man and they are sometimes taken by lions.