Written by: Hillary Gaertner
When a collection of individuals join together for a single altruistic cause, whether it is family members, a group of strangers, or an African tribe, the result is extraordinary. It is an act to remind our big, beautiful world how we feel about it by saying, “We believe in something bigger than ourselves and that deserves a day of noteworthy celebration.”
This is the feeling that sweeps through the Zululand Rhino Reserve plains every August for the annual Rhino Ride. It’s an event that fights for Africa’s beloved rhinos in an attempt to do anything we can to stop them from reaching extinction. This year’s ride will take place August 29th and 30th and allows cyclists of all levels to enjoy 70km of mountain bike fun, taking in the sights and sounds of the Zululand bushveld on two very sturdy wheels.
It’s an amazing “ah-ha” realisation if you’re lucky enough to spot a rhino during the cycling adventure. Seeing our African unicorns during the rhino ride keeps the conservation fight ignited, as imagining not seeing the grey beasts in the future is a devastating thought.
2014’s #RhinoRide proved a great success raising over R300 000 for the Zululand Rhino Reserve foundation and Rhino Conservation. Sheena Arnott, an artist who has participated in the past 3 rides and painted a rhino masterpiece to auction at last year’s cycle says it best: “Having the creative nature that I do, I find myself immersed in my passions, conservation being high on my list along with mountain biking (although a relatively intermittent one) and painting, amongst others. So, what better than to combine them all on one weekend at the Rhino Ride!”
Sheena continued by describing the ride and the reason behind it: “Arriving at the reserve I am acutely aware of how privileged I am to be entering a “Big Five” area with the intention of being part of this altruistic initiative to save the rhino.
It is with a sense of adventure and heightened senses that we start the ride in our casual safety batches each morning. As this event is thankfully not competitive, it gives us all the opportunity to be social, appreciate the bush and to enjoy the delicious leisurely breakfast en route.
I cannot help but feel a matrix of energy between myself, the other riders, and our environment; all united for this single purpose.”
Rhino River Lodge, located in the southern section of the Zululand Rhino Reserve, looks forward to the month of August with the upcoming Rhino Adventure Ride around the corner. Ranger Frances describes the two day event with such enthusiasm: “The Rhino Ride brings an extra dose of happiness and unity to the Zululand Rhino Reserve. Cycling through big 5 territory brings with it all sorts of fun and games, as the marshals are especially alert making slight change to the route as the kings of the jungle feel fit! Impala, nyala and kudu watch on as the cyclists’ huff and puff down their daily routes, and warthogs dart in and out of the grass at the sounds of rubber on gravel. Birds of prey watch from high in the trees, picking out the weak and the strong. Snorting wildebeest and zebra cheer you on as you cut through their grassy refuge, while the giraffes sigh as they look at the steep climb ahead of the daring riders.
We love that the money raised is directly fed into the protection of our rhino. The harmonious working relationship between the community and reserve is a strong bond that creates a safe surrounding buffer zone that we all cherish and care for.”
Entries for the Rhino Ride open on March 15th and are limited to 200 riders. A secure camping village is set up for the weekend with authentic bush cuisine to fill the tummies of hungry cyclists, but why not add a dose of luxury to your weekend or better yet, extend your getaway with a stay at Rhino River Lodge?
Turn your tent into a chalet, your bike into a safari cruiser, and game view your way into a bush wonderland for some post-race R&R. Expect icy cold drinks, dinners under a blanket of stars, and mosquito nets daintily draped over queen sized beds. If anything, you’ve earned it!