Written by: Jop and Marie-Fleur
Deep in Uganda lies Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. It is a quiet, well maintained sanctuary, despite the fierce battles that are going on throughout Africa between poachers and conservationists who are trying to protect the rhino species.
After more than two decades of absence, the white rhino is back at Ziwa. Thanks to cooperation between Rhino Fund Uganda, Ziwa and the park’s lodges, Uganda’s big five is complete again.
Unlike a safari in the more famous Queen Elizabeth or Murchison Falls National Parks, which mainly entail long and bumpy car rides, safaris at Ziwa are done on foot. Taking away the safety of a vehicle makes you feel vulnerable, but it is a unique experience. The rangers guide you through the park while receiving directions over the radio from other rangers along the lines of: “Pass the big mango tree and turn left”. When within hearing range they communicate by whistling like birds.
A massive grey structure looms through the leaves, and shortly after you’re standing eye-to-eye with a prehistoric looking three ton mammal. Considering their size, rhino are remarkably well hidden in the rather low bushes.
Their dinosaur features truly make you feel as close to Jurassic Park as you can get.
The electric fenced sanctuary is home to Uganda’s only 15 white rhinos that live outside of a zoo. The first rhino came to the sanctuary in 2008 and, thanks to the efforts of the Rhino Fund and the Genade family in particular, the population has grown to its current number without a single rhino being poached.
With six adults, which are evenly divided into the two genders, and nine youngsters, the number of residents is growing and an encounter is guaranteed. The curiosity of the youngsters makes you wonder who is tracking whom. Don’t get too complacent though because their unexpected movements could still make your heart skip a beat.
The Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is probably also the best spot in Uganda for bird watching, and it’s home to the rare shoebill stork, which we saw during a trek through the swamp. Even though we’re not birders, this amazing creature blew us away.
The Ziwa experience is an absolute must on a trip to Uganda and the only way to see the big five in the country. The sanctuary is not there to make money, but rather to reintroduce rhinos back into the wild.
The electric fence and the 24/7 present rangers are a necessity in the war against the poachers. Working in 12-hour shifts, their are 90 rangers in total, which equates to six armed men per rhino.
Although the war continues, there is still hope as the rhinoceros has returned to Uganda. At least for now.