Fireside stories - My first time leading a Big 5 trails walk, fireside stories – Joe Botha

It started early in the morning, I was not yet walking lead trails, but went as a participant.

We had heard lions calling in the early hours of the morning, they sounded extremely close and we set out to find them. After much searching, we sadly couldn’t find them but we had walked this far and were adamant to find something exciting. A few steps later we came across Black Rhino tracks.

enter image description here Photo Source:

One belonging to a large female and the other somewhat smaller, a calf. These lead us straight into the Tamboti thicket.

A little on edge as we walked, knowing that this particular territory was home to a black rhino cow with a very short fuse. She would not hesitate to charge us if we got too close.

enter image description here Photo Source: Phelwana Game Lodge

On we went, slowly and as silently as possible through the ticket. Tracks getting clearer and clearer. Fresh tracks. The bush became so thick and at this point, our instructor informed us that we would need to turn back. It was getting dangerous.

Disappointed at our uneventful morning and that we had not found the rhino, we started to make our way back. Through the thicket, heading home, still hoping, and then, some luck. As we turned the corner there she was, asleep with her calf. Right in our path. Adrenaline pumping through us as we silently walked away. I don’t think I have ever walked as quietly as I did that day. The day we had to tiptoe away from sleeping Rhino.

On we went, coming out of the thicket, an Elephant Bull approaching in the distance. Not showing any signs of aggression or discomfort towards us. An amazing sighting. The sheer size of this magnificent bull, the ground thumping as he walked right past us.

*enter image description here* Photo Source: @Zululand_Frogman

That afternoon we went on a short walk to decompress after a day of adrenaline. I started the briefing by explaining how we would be doing a short walk to the rocky outcrops. Off we set, halfway into the walk we heard a big thud, being a bit shaken from our morning walk, we took extra precautions to examine the cause. We waited 15 minutes, not wanting to take any chances, and saw Vervet Monkeys jumping and playing in the trees. What a relief we thought...

enter image description here Photo Source: @Zululand_Frogman

Suddenly we heard it again. A sound we all knew too well. The sound of a black rhino charging. Now in the bush, we are told not to run, except in this instance. RUN. We scattered. Some of us to the closest trees, and some of us back to camp. Up the tree I went, turning once I reached the first branch to see the instructor still standing there. Standing down a huge Black Rhino Bull, and succeeding. I have never seen this before, nor do I ever think I will see this again. The impossible. A mere man standing in front of a Black Rhino. David and Goliath.

The rhino feeling defeated fled back into the thicket and I came down my tree. We recouped and found everyone. Said our thanks to the powers above for keeping us safe and headed for the rocky outcrops.

This day goes down in my record book as the best and scariest trail walk I have ever had the privilege to be on.

enter image description here Joe Botha, Phelwana Guide @Zululand_Frogman

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