We’re often asked where are the best places to see rhinos in the wild, so here are some of our personal favourite locations. Some game reserves are reluctant to publicise the presence of rhinos, because of the threat of poaching, so we’ve not included these. Other reserves see rhinos as an important part of the visitor experience and are happy to encourage rhino tourism and the revenue it brings.
Kwazulu Natal, South Africa www.kznwildlife.com
A beautiful reserve in the rolling Zululand hills, with all of the Big Five, including plenty of rhinos. Spend two or three nights here and you can’t fail to see white rhino, with a good chance of the odd black rhino thrown in. Accommodation is good value, roads are driveable by 2×4, and the twin reserves are a manageable size, making this an excellent choice for self-drive safaris. Stay at Hilltop camp in Hluhluwe if you want a decent restaurant and bar, or self-cater at Mpila if you want easy access to the quieter Umfolozi section.
Mpumalanga/Limpopo, South Africa www.sanparks.co.za
You could spend months exploring the near two million hectares of South Africa’s premier national park, and still barely scratch the surface of what it has to offer, but you won’t need to spend more than a day or two here to find rhinos – there are estimated to be up to 10,000. The southern half of the park has the highest density and white rhinos are seen on most game drives. Black rhinos are much harder to find in the dense thickets. Like Hluhluwe-Umfolozi, Kruger is easy to visit on a self-drive DIY safari.
North West Province, South Africa www.parksnorthwest.co.za
Just two hours from Johannesburg or Pretoria (and next door to Sun City), Pilanesberg is easily accessible if you’re limited for time, and has all the Big Five, including conspicuous white rhino, plus some other interesting species, such as brown hyena. It’s a manageable size for a self-drive day visit or a couple of nights in one of the lodges or camps, with around 200km of good roads, and some nice hides as a break from driving.
Kwazulu Natal, South Africa www.kznwildlife.com
uMkhuze’s white rhinos aren’t too difficult to see on game drives, and its black rhinos put in an occasional appearance, but it’s the game viewing at Kumasinga hide (blind) that makes this reserve stand out. On any morning in the drier months you are guaranteed an astonishing spectacle, as hundreds of animals, usually including several rhino, come down to drink at the water that surrounds the hide. Great for photography. Neighbouring iSimangaliso Wetland Park (www.isimangaliso.com) also has rhinos.
If you want to get really close to white rhinos on foot, this is the place. You can self-drive in Hlane, but the real attraction of the park is the fantastic rhino viewing from the main camp, Ndlovu. Rhinos come to the adjacent waterhole, and nothing but a low electric fence separates you from them. Simple rustic accommodation is very cheap. Another Swazi park which is very good for both black and white rhino is Mkhaya, where you can take game drives or walking safaris as either a day visitor or in an all-inclusive package as an overnight guest at the charming Stone Camp.
Damaraland, Kunene, Namibia www.wilderness-safaris.com
Operated as a collaboration between Wilderness Safaris and Save the Rhino Trust, the NGO which has helped preserve Damaraland’s desert-adapted black rhinos, a visit here is an unforgettable experience. Damaraland is home to the largest free-roaming population of black rhino in Africa, but tracking them on foot or vehicle in this vast, breathtaking landscape takes time, patience and stamina. The reward when you finally find one is well worth the effort.
North west Namibia, www.nwr.com.na
One of Africa’s greatest game parks and surprisingly accessible even to self-drive tourists. Black rhino (and a few introduced white rhino) are occasionally seen on game drives, but the stand-out rhino watching is after dark, at the waterholes adjoining Okaukuejo and Halali rest camps. Visit during the dry months and you’ve every chance of double-figure black rhino sightings at Okaukuejo’s floodlit waterhole – while sitting comfortably sipping a cold beer. Halali can be almost as good.
Laikipia, Kenya www.olpejetaconservancy.org
Ol Pejeta is East Africa’s largest black rhino sanctuary, and the animals are not hard to find on an early morning game drive. Introduced white rhino are also conspicuous. If you somehow manage to miss the free-roaming black rhino, you can visit and help feed Baraka, a blind rhino kept in an enclosure as an ‘ambassador’. Ol Pejeta also has four of only seven northern white rhinos known to survive in the world, and is hopeful that the animals, relocated from a Czech zoo, may resume breeding.
Laikipia, Kenya www.lewa.org
Decidely up-market (Lewa is a favourite of Prince William), but well worth a once-in-a-lifetime splurge, and not only for the excellent black and white rhino viewing. As well as all the Big Five, Lewa has specialties such as Grevy’s zebra, reticulated giraffe, gerenuk and Somali ostrich, and there are some lovely hides (blinds) for close up wildlife watching. The scenery is also beautiful. Lewa is heavily involved in community conservation initiatives in neighbouring areas.
Rift Valley, Kenya www.kws.org
Lake Nakuru is close enough to Nairobi for a day trip (taking in some spectacular views of the Rift Valley) but that would hardly do it justice. Better known for its flamingoes, now sadly much reduced in number, the park has a good population of easily spotted white rhino, and harder to see blacks. White rhino can be spotted at any time of day, but for black rhino you’re best to stay at a lodge in the reserve and go out early.