Walking with black rhinos in Kenya
FT travel writer Martin Fletcher travels to the remote Sera conservation area in Kenya to the Saruni lodge where you can follow critically endangered black rhinos, not from a jeep, but on foot, and only metres away, with the use of trained guides.
The Sera Conservancy and Rhino Sanctuary is 1,300 square miles of parched bush in the wilderness of northern Kenya, far beyond the range of television, the internet, and mass tourism. Here, semi-nomadic Samburu tribesmen tend cattle, goats, and camels and festoon themselves with earrings, bracelets, and multi-layered necklaces. Here, their tribesmen cut deep wells through the bedrock and sing to soothe their livestock.
Here too, is a tiny, but remarkable, new lodge a two hour drive on dirt tracks from the nearest commercial airstrip staffed by Samburu warriors and perched on the bank of a dried up river where elephants and other wildlife drink at a water hole.
The lodge services the real attraction of Sera, the chance to track critically endangered black rhinos unarmed and on foot through the bush. A dozen were relocated here in 2015, the first since their forebears were poached to extinction in the 1980s. And they flourished. Two have given birth. Three more are pregnant.
Their horns are microchipped. Using a radio transmitter, two guides lead you through the bush assiduously staying downwind of them because they have poor eyesight, but excellent smell and hearing.
They are well camouflaged and remarkably hard to spot, even as you approach them. But then you catch sight of the great horned prehistoric beast, and its thrilling. You can see rhinos on countless other reserves in Africa, but not like this, not on foot, not rhinos as genuinely wild as these and not on their very own territory.
Video footage courtesy of Elizabeth Orizio of Saruni Lodges and Pietro Laruschi. Written by Martin Fletcher. Produced and edited by Josh de la Mare.