Close Encounters

Another 5am start, this time in search of the rare Black Rhino.  My enthusiasm has been dampened somewhat by last night’s revelation we will likely only get 5-15 mins with a Rhino at a distance of 100-150M if we are lucky.  Anyhow, ever onward!

We set out along the track at dawn and not far into our drive our guide sees a couple of hyenas ahead.  We cut the engine and wait.  To my surprise they jog towards us and are so curious.  One is smaller than the other and a bit more skittish.  It has beautiful markings while the other one is rather ugly and looks every bit a natural born killer.  They come closer and closer, starting on the other side of the truck and now coming around to mine.  I have my big lens on and don’t really need it they are so close.  I stop taking pictures and stare at the ugly one.  It comes closer and closer and by now I am getting seriously concerned.  From 5 feet it would take a second for it to have its teeth in my neck!  I make a sudden movement with my camera and that breaks the moment and the hyenas run off.  Inside I am happily relieved.

Well, who cares about finding a rhino, that was exciting!  We drive on and about 30 mins later we hear news of a rhino sighting and are told we will continue on foot.  Single file, absolutely no talking!  We come around the crest of the hill to the trackers and there it is, a Black Rhino’s backside about 100M aware, poking out from behind a bush.  I can see it now, I go all this way and get a picture of a rhino’s backside!  The rhino then appears to sense we are there and turns around.  Cool, we can see its horn, how beautiful.  It then starts jogging away from the bush in our direction – how lucky, we are going to get some good shots.  The rhino picks up speed and starts running; the guides instruct us to get down and I keep taking pictures – wow this is going to be great.  I am somewhat oblivious, taking pictures and the rhino is now running straight at us.  I can hear it snorting and the ground feels like it is rumbling.  This is one heavy animal that is moving incredibly quickly for its size!

Suddenly a sense of fear and urgency comes over us.  The rhino is running flat out right at us;  I am frozen, they didn’t explain what to do when you are about to be trampled by a charging rhino.  At that point two trackers jump in front of it waving their arms and throwing stones.  Fortunately it scares the rhino which quickly turns and stomps away.  I think we are all so shocked and surprised at what just happened we don’t really know what to say.  The trackers estimate the rhino was about 25 M away.

Over lunch I ask the trackers if our experience was unusual and I receive a clear YES.  “Does anyone get trampled?”; yes replies one of our guides, a tracker is still not walking after being trampled last year.  It is a sharp reminder this is Africa, not the zoo.  The animals are wild and unpredictable, don’t go without a guide and listen to them!

Day 3-15 Day 3-30

My first real “wild” life experience and it was scary.  Look into the hyenas eyes, you can see our truck.

Day 3-60 Day 3-62

Oh look, the rhino has come out from behind the bush, that’s great for pictures.

Day 3-68 Day 3-76

It is now running towards us, let’s get some action pictures!

Day 3-117 Day 3-124

Ugh oh, it is running straight towards and from the snorting and pounding, it is one very unhappy rhino!  The last pictures of a trampled photographer….

Day 3-159 Day 3-193

Now for something a little more cute and friendly.  We come across a family of giraffes, phew!

4 thoughts

  1. Hi Andy

    I enjoyed the post!!! I enjoy them all. THanks for your time tonight… Another event happened after we spoke and I am glad I was on the phone with my best friend, also a photographer, when I discovered this on Photo Quest Adventure website….it made me cry before she could make me laugh….. never even saw this one coming…. Not only is Piers their guide, he is now running all their operations in Africa……… when I felt something has not been right.. those instincts were dead on….. All the footage and research done on this past trip will be used to promote their business…..

    Anyway…. just thought I would share the update.. not sure I will be emailing Chris because at this point I really would not know what to say or where to start….. But I know that how things were going down, just were not sitting right with me and I need to trust my instinct on this sometimes…

    THanks for listing. Piper Piers L’Estrange PQA now has its own office in Africa! Operating out of Windhoek Namibia, it will be run by Piers LEstrange who organized and guided us on our Namibia trips. Piers has been working in the Safari industry in Africa since 1990. His main focus has been specialist photographic safaris and fixing for documentary film crews. He has worked with such luminaries as Matt Lauer, Charlie Waite and Eric Valli to name just a few. With Piers on our PQA team, we can now offer a more customised option for those of you that want to experience Africa on a more personal level while maintaining the same signature PQA style that we are famous for. This customization will allow our Questers to “Build a Quest” with your choice of travel companions, where you want to go, see and photograph with maximum flexibility. The experience and local knowledge Piers provides will assure all our Quests to Africa will be exciting, educational and unforgettable!

  2. Hi Andy

    Thanks again for your time last night or I would not have been prepared for Chris’s call this morning. It was a big help and I was glad I had a few things written out from our conversation. We will be meeting next wed. I already have a much better understanding of how to work with him from the few questions you helped me to present. 

    Thanks again, Piper

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