There are two species of rhino that can be seen on African safaris, the black rhino and the white rhino. These names are misleading as they are not truly distinguished by their color. The black rhino is more accurately the hook-lipped rhino as it has a prehensile upper lip used to browse vegetation from shrubs, while the white rhino is the square-lipped rhino with a squared off mouth made to graze the grasses. Both rhino are extremely rare and continue to be vulnerable to poaching because of the high demand for their horns in some Asian countries. In some areas rhino have human attendant guards making them easy to find but not much of a wild feeling. Many safari areas completely lack rhino so if a rhino sighting is paramount be sure to include an appropriate area on your safari.
Most of the best places to see rhino are reserves in South Africa where breeding programs have been very successful. Hluhulwe-Umfolozi Park became the base of Operation Rhino about 50 years ago and has been the source of rhino for reintroductions throughout Africa. Today, more than 20% of the world’s black and white rhinos still reside here. The park has the highest concentration of white rhino in the world with approximately 2,000 individuals. Kruger area including Sabi Sand, and Madikwe Game Reserve have good sightings in South Africa. Etosha and the neighboring Ongava Game Reserve, as well as the Palmwag area (for black rhino) in Namibia have good rhino sightings. Nairobi National Park, Lake Nakuru and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya are places with regular sightings. Ngorongoro Crater is a good location to sight black rhino.
Other Areas of Note
Botswana has a re-introduction program for rhino. Rhino had been almost completely confined to the exclusive Chief’s Island region but a new project is being led by Great Plains and &Beyond Safari companies to bring in an additional 100 rhino from South Africa. This will likely lead to increased sightings across a broader area of the Okavango. Sightings are possible in the Serengeti and Masai Mara but not common in those areas.
Tracking rhino on foot is an exhilarating activity that is highly recommended in the company of an excellent guide. A safari specifically focused on tracking desert adapted black rhino in the Palmwag region of Namibia provides an ideal opportunity to concentrate on rhino. Excellent opportunities to track white rhino on foot occur in the Ongava Game Reserve in Namibia. Other reserve areas offer this experience as well.