I have spent many years in the African bush and the sight of Rhino still fills me with awe. I decided to focus this blog post on South African wildlife reserves that offer you a good chance of seeing rhinos in the wild. The lodges I have chosen offer luxury accommodation in some of the best wildlife safari areas in South Africa.
For many people travelling to South Africa on safari will be a significant trip; possibly a ‘once in a lifetime’ adventure. It’s a long haul and you want to make your time count. So ideally, on safari you want to see the ‘Big 5’ (Buffalo, Elephant, Leopard, Lion and Rhino), and off course the many more beautiful animals that make an African Safari Holiday to South Africa so special.
But first a little about these magnificent creatures, Rhinos. World-wide there are five species of rhinoceros: white, black, greater one-horned, Sumatran and Javan. In Southern Africa, you will find two species: Black Rhinoceros and White Rhinoceros.
Due to its large size, the rhino’s only predator in the wild are mainly lions. Lion will prey on rhino calves and weak individuals if the opportunity arises. We humans are the biggest threat to the rhinoceros population and we have sadly hunted this magnificent animal to the brink of extinction for their horn.
A group of rhinos is referred to as a: ‘Crash of Rhinos’.
The white rhino is also known as the ‘square-lipped’ rhino, this magnificent beast stands between 1.5 – 1.8m and weighs between 1,800 – 3,000kg. The gestation period for a white rhinoceros is between 16 and 18 months. The white rhino is a grazer, using its flat, square lip to effectively cut and eat grass. They are the more common sighted of the rhino as they are often spotted on the plains grazing.
When in danger the white rhino calf runs in front of her mother. The black rhino calf runs behind the mother when fleeing potential danger. The Southern white rhino was once on the brink of extinction with only around 50 individuals left in the wild. Thanks to a concerted conservation effort they were rescued from the brink of extinction and now numbers are estimated at around 20,0000 individuals.
Sadly, poaching has become a major problem in South Africa, threatening the species yet again.
The hook-lipped rhino (black rhino) is distinguishable by its smaller size, hook lip, and as a browser, inhabits a different habitat to the white rhino. Black rhinos are more active during the night-time when they are found foraging and drinking. The black rhino is more aggressive and shyer than the white rhino.
The black rhino stands at about 1.6m and weighs between 900 – 1,350kg. The gestation period for a black rhinoceros is between 15 and 16 months.
Black rhinos tend to be solitary and generally harder to view as they are often browsing in thick bush. In danger, the black rhino calf runs behind the mother, who will crash through the thick bush making a path to escape.
My Favourite Luxury Safari Destinations for Rhino
I am selecting reserves in regions that are typically easily included in a South African Safari Holiday. For me the best destinations to see Rhino in South Africa are:
The lowveld is my favourite wildlife destination in South Africa. The Greater Kruger National Park (GKNP) was formed as the result of a landmark agreement between the Kruger National Park and surrounding Private Nature Reserves. Together they have removed their boundary fences, creating the GKNP.
The GKNP comprises of an area measuring more than 20,000,000 hectares (20,000 square kilometres), managed under their joint conservation. The Private Lodges within the GKNP are renowned for their luxurious lodges and awesome game viewing opportunities.
Some of the Awesome game lodges in the GKNP include:
This fantastic reserve offers an affordable, luxury bush experience. Renowned for its hospitable and informative staff. The game drives offer you an opportunity to locate the ‘Big 5’ as well as a variety of other exciting African mammals. I absolutely love this lodge; the staff and excellent game viewing truly make your visit so memorable.
Klaserie Sands River Camp
At the Klaserie Sands River Camp expect to be impressed. This lush and intimate lodge accommodates just eight guests in luxurious suites along the dry N’tsiri riverbed. At Klaserie Sands River Camp you can enjoy a complete African safari experience, with daily game-drives as well as, guided bush walks. It’s a very special place in the bush, I love it.
MalaMala Game Reserve
Comprising 13,300 hectares, MalaMala shares a 12-mile unfenced border with the Kruger National Park. Visiting this lodge is often rewarded with exceptional wildlife encounters. Apart from the magnificent rhino and the other ‘Big Five’, African wild dog and cheetah are frequently spotted on this reserve.
Londolozi is in the heart of the Sabi Sand Game Reserve within the GKNP. The reserve is world-renowned for its leopards as well as the breeding herds of elephant and buffalo that roam throughout Londolozi reserve.
The white rhino and lion concentrations are among the highest recorded on the African continent. Intimate leopard sightings are frequent at Londolozi.
The twelve lodges available in the Thornybush collection offer visitors exceptional game viewing from a selection of camps and lodges in a pristine part of the GKNP. The reserve covers 14,000 hectares of unspoilt African bushveld offering excellent game viewing opportunities of the ‘Big 5’.
Experience the African bush in style at Ulusaba. This is a stunning reserve with exceptional accommodation options. Ulusaba means “place of little fear”. At award-winning Ulusaba you can traverse over 13,500 hectares of private reserve with your dedicated Ranger and Tracker who will tailor your game drive just for you! Pure luxury in the bush.
North West Province
The Pilanesberg National Park
The Pilanesberg is an easy 3-hour drive from Johannesburg and ideal for a safari, especially if you are limited with time. This ‘malaria free’ reserve boasts several camps and apart from the ‘Big 5’ offers an awesome variety of game. Virtually all the animal species native to southern Africa can be found here, including the Big 5, wild dog, Roan, Tsessebe and Sable antelope and more than 360 species of bird.
I have visited this reserve often over the years and I have always had awesome game sightings and I have always seen rhino. Tshukudu Bush Lodge is an awesome place to stay, built on a hill overlooking a waterhole. This luxury lodge has only 6 luxury chalets and 4 suites
Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park
The Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park is the oldest proclaimed reserve in Africa and under 3 hours’ drive from Durban. This 96,000-hectare reserve is divided into two separate Parks, namely the Hluhluwe Game Reserve and Imfolozi Game Reserve. Both reserves support large populations of Rhino
The Hluhluwe side is more commercial and has more accommodation to choose from. It is truly an awesome reserve with rolling hills which makes for some spectacular scenery.
Phinda Game Reserve
Phinda Game Reserve is located just outside of ISimangaliso Wetland Park on the northern Kwa Zulu Natal coast. The park is known for its concentration of wildlife, including both white and black rhino. The Awesome, &Beyond Phinda Forest Lodge, offers stunning accommodation, very special place to stay.
Shamwari Private Game Reserve
This awesome reserve is home to numerous rhino. While in the reserve visit the Ian Player Rhino Awareness Centre which gives information and education about rhino poaching in South Africa. Shamwari is a stunning reserve.
The Amakhala Game Reserve is in the malaria free Eastern Cape of South Africa. This reserve was created in 1999 as a joint conservation venture between the owners of six lodges who are direct descendants of the original British settlers of 1820. Amakhala offers excellent game viewing and superb selection of lodges to choose from.
The Welgevonden Game Reserve (Dutch for “well found”), is a 34,850-hectare game reserve in the Waterberg District of the Limpopo Province. Less than 4-hours’ drive from Johannesburg, Welgevoden is in a ‘malaria free’ area and ideal for a luxury stay in the bush. Welgevoden offers a choice of 17 magnificent luxury lodges. The lodges in the Welgevoden game reserve are truly amazing.
Marakele National Park
Located in the gorgeous Waterberg Mountains, Marakele National Park has a fantastic variety of wildlife, including a good population of rhino. The incredible scenery of the area makes for fantastic photo opportunities. From Johannesburg allow around 3 ½ hours to drive up to Marakele.
North West Province
Madikwe Game Reserve
Saddling Botswana, Madikwe Game Reserve is a conservation area offering visitors a rich variety of wildlife including elephants, lions, leopards, and rhinos, plus the endangered African wild dogs. Hundreds of bird species include ostrich, vultures, and the large Kori bustard.
Like Pilanesberg, Madikwe is also a ‘malaria free’ area. You can find both white and black rhino in the 750 square kilometre reserve, and you can expect to frequently spot rhino. Driving from Johannesburg allow just over 4 hours to reach the reserve.
Sadly, the world’s last male northern white rhino died in Kenya on 19th March 2018. There are only two surviving female northern white rhinos’ left and the only change of avoiding extinction is through IVF treatment. What a tragedy and an embarrassment to the entire human race.
I want to close with a plug for a charity that I really do believe are doing outstanding work in the ongoing fight against wildlife crime: Veterans for Wildlife.
Veterans for Wildlife
Veterans for Wildlife is an amazing charity set up to protect and conserve our wildlife. Their stated mission is: ‘empowering veterans to aid in the prevention of wildlife crime’.
This international charity is committed to the protection of wildlife and the world’s critically endangered species. By deploying highly-skilled and experienced former service personnel, Veterans for Wildlife aims to play a key role in conservation and the prevention of wildlife crime.
Join the Veterans for Wildlife members community and help empower a veteran whilst also preventing wildlife crime!
Every 8 hours a rhino is poached for its horn!
Read my Blog post ‘Planning a Safari to South Africa’ to get more tips, facts and information when planning your African Safari holiday. I advise on the best time to go to South Africa, where to go in South Africa, the advantages, and disadvantages of self-drive or guided safaris.