In the Sights of Rhinos
“Don’t move!” I was told. Perhaps that’s an odd highlight for a trip, the moments when you must remain stock still against the strong intuition to belago, run like hell. Yet these were the most exhilarating for me as a volunteer taking census data of the herbivores in Hluhlue iMfolozi Nation Park (HiP) in South Africa. Each day I was paired with an armed Zulu field ranger for my protection as we walked transects across the park looking for and documenting the coordinates of the large herbivores. Encountering lions, elephants, water buffalo on foot were all adrenaline-pumping experiences for an American girl who’d never seen these animals outside a zoo; standing beside giraffes and zebras, male kudu and water buck were magical moments. But it was the rhinos, both white and the particularly grumpy black, that sent a spike in my heart rate like nothing else – glaring at me with their wide-set eyes, huffing and tossing their horn in the air, stepping closer with their massive weight to investigate. It’s because of their poor eyesight that the rangers say not to move, in hopes the rhino will lose interest when we look like just another acacia. Each time I stood still, my heart pounding, my ranger whispering, “Don’t move,” I thought, this is why I wanted to come to Africa and walk among the wildlife.