Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Staff Highlight: Murray Harrison

Murray recently joined the Rhino River Lodge team in the position of Junior Ranger. Though young, Murray has already proved himself a mature and responsible member of our team, and best of all, an enthusiastic and knowledgeable game ranger. He has even become a valuable assistant to our general manager helping out on the reserve and in the camp. To top it all off, Murray is also a talented photographer. Here we get to know him a little bit better.

What led to your position at Rhino River Lodge?
I was talking to a friend of mine that is managing a neighboring lodge and he told me there was a position at Rhino River Lode. A phone call and an interview later, I was here and haven't looked back since.

What aspect of your new position are you most excited about?
Most definitely the variety of things that I do and being able to try challenge myself and learn new things.

What is your favourite part of being a game ranger?
Wow, there are so many reasons but I must stay showing people animals that they have never seen before and opening their eyes to the whole environment as a big picture and not just ow everyone sees it on TV.

What advice would you give someone coming on safari for the very first time?
Make sure you've got your camera ready and an open mind to make the most of everything. These memories can last a lifetime.

Do you have a favourite animal to view on game drives?
I must say that I'm not phased because everything in nature has good interesting things about them, but if I had to pick it would be an elephant just because they never fail to impress and are always doing something new and interesting.

What do you love best about living in the bush?
The best thing about living in the bush is that everyday is different and you never know what to expect. It is such a privilege to be able to work so closely with animals in a much less stressful environment than in a city.

Best collective nouns for animals on safari

On an African safari, if you have a knowledgeable game ranger, you are likely to learn all sorts of new and interesting information about the animals you see. One of our favourite bits of information to share are the collective nouns used for some of the species.
A collective noun is the name given to a group of animals. While many are common and well-known (like herd, flock, or pride), there are many lesser known but fantastically descriptive terms used to describe African animals.
A group of elephants is called a ‘memory’ of elephants. This is in reference to their strong family ties, intelligence, and reputedly long memories.

Sometimes the most interesting animals on safari aren’t the large predators, but the more common species that manage to capture our imaginations. Zebra are one of the most strikingly beautiful animals in the African bush and it’s not difficult to see why a group of zebra is called a ‘dazzle’ of zebra.

Giraffe are another iconic African species and always a firm favourite with our guests. A group of giraffe is called a ‘tower’ of giraffe, as their heads can often be seen sticking high above the trees on the horizon.

A personal favourite here at Rhino River Lodge, the term for a group of rhinos is a ‘crash’. It is particularly apt for black rhinos as at they generally come crashing through the bush towards you and then crashing right back away again as soon as they investigate what you are.
The term for a group of wildebeest (also known as gnu) is a ‘confusion’ of wildebeest. This probably originates from the noise and confusion that happens in large migratory movements of wildebeest, like the Serengeti’s great migration, but we think it could also refer to the rather comical appearance of the animal. Described by entertainingly by Ambrose Bierce as “an animal of South Africa, which in its domesticated state resembles a horse, a buffalo and a stag. In its wild condition it is something like a thunderbolt, an earthquake and a cyclone.”

A group of buffalo is aptly referred to as an ‘obstinacy’ of buffalo. Considering their bulky bodies, stubbornness and tendency to stay in large, protective herds, this is a prime example of a collective noun that takes its inspiration directly from the characteristics of the animal being described.

Spending their days lazing in the water, and nights grazing on the river banks, a group of hippos is fittingly called a ‘bloat’. While this may sound a little funny, coming across a bloat of hippos out of the water is no joke as hippos are widely considered to be the most dangerous animal in Africa.


Memories, dazzles, towers, crashes, confusions, obstinacies and bloats! We’ve got them all at Rhino River Lodge. Start planning your safari to see them for yourself.

Originally published at Africa Geographic.

Orphaned baby warthogs find a home at Rhino River Lodge

Recently the Rhino River Lodge family has extended to include two new members, Sizzles and Peanut. Sizzles and Peanut are orphaned warthogs who have been adopted by managers, Clair and Kyle with a little assistance from the rest of the Rhino River Lodge staff.

Sizzles came to us when he somehow ended up in the garden of a staff member in the northern part of Manyoni Private Game Reserve all by himself. His mother was nowhere to be found and Clair and Kyle volunteered to adopt him. Shortly afterwards, we received another call from a property outside the game reserve where a mother warthog had been hit by a vehicle, and one baby warthog had been rescued.


This little baby was Peanut. Peanut was in a bad state as she arrived severely dehydrated. Luckily Clair and Kyle had already been polishing their rescue skills with Sizzles and they were able to nurse her back to health with some veterinary assistance.

Taking care of a rescued animal is no easy feat. Many wild animals that are rescued don’t survive and, though people are generally well-intentioned, caring for rescued animals takes specialised knowledge and lots and lots of time. Clair and Kyle have been successful, because they have sought and followed veterinary advice and have relied on the support of many other people for assistance when their own schedules were busy.


A strict schedule of feedings, every two hours for Sizzles and Peanut when they were very little (this includes the middle of the night!), left caretakers exhausted. Sizzles and Peanut first subsisted on a special milk formula that Clair and Kyle had to mix up using fresh cream, egg yolks, full cream milk, a special protein powder (to keep the stomach lined and working properly) and liquid vitamins. Beyond feeding, keeping a constant eye on them as they got their daily fill of exercise was a full-time job in itself.


As they got stronger and braver, both warthogs started following their adoptive parents around the lodge. One of the greatest treats for our guests was seeing Kyle or Clair walk around the corner into the lodge and then shortly after,  two adorable baby warthogs racing in after them.


While it is a privilege to spend time with these two baby warthogs, the ultimate goal is for them to be able to survive in the bush and to live on their own. They are spending more and more time each day wandering on their own through the lodge grounds, grazing and encountering other warthogs.

Until then, the team at Rhino River Lodge and our guests are enjoying getting to see the shenanigans of these two warthogs as they grow in their independence. One of Clair’s favorite new tricks is when Sizzles and Peanut recently started doing spins, “as I call it, their dance moves,” says Clair.
“They run up to me and stop and then spin in circles whilst bouncing.” But for Clair, their cutest trait at the moment is when they are tired. “They will go into my house and find anything that smells like me or Kyle and nudge it until they fall asleep. If we are home at the time they will nudge and suckle and lick on our legs until they eventually pass out.”


While all these interactions are rewarding and the Rhino River Lodge team is enjoying having the two little warthogs as part of our family, we are all rooting for them to return to the bush in the not too distant future.

Originally published at Africa Geographic.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Staff Highlight: Andrew Delaney

Andrew is one of our newest rangers at Rhino River Lodge and he is already receiving rave reviews from guests. Here we get to know a little bit more about Andrew...

What led to your position at Rhino River Lodge?
Having worked and been to quite a few different areas in South Africa, I was interested to try somewhere that was new to me. I had heard about many of the reserves in KZN and how amazing they were. I jumped at the opportunity and was not dissappointed.
What aspect of your new position are you most excited about?
Definitely the scenery. The reserve is absolutely stunning and after 3 months my jaw still drops at the beauty of some of the areas. It is also fantastic to work with a great team and I am looking forward to what the future holds.
What is your favourite part of being a game ranger?
Spending time in the wild we are able to observe some truly fascinating interactions between animals. The excitement of taking people out and showing them things that they may have only seen on tv is also amazing.
What advice would you give someone coming on safari for the very first time?
Try and take in as much as possible but at the same time relax and just enjoy nature. Seeing the well know species is always amazing but sometimes the smaller things in the wild can surprise us the most.
Do you have a favourite animal to view on game drive?
Its a tough choice between aardvark and elephant. Aardvark are special because they are so different and being rather hard to find its just always nice to see them. Elephant are just amazing and the way that they interact with each other is special. Each time you see one it feels like a new experience.
What do you love best about living in the bush?
Each time I step out onto the reserve it feels I have traveled back a few hundred years to a time before  skyscrapers and busy highways. Its a special feeling which is rather addictive.

Friday, February 24, 2017

A Summer Storm at Rhino River Lodge

The day is oppressively hot, as many are in summer in Zululand. The thermometer is pushing 40 degrees Celcius but the discomfort index reads “feels like 53”. It would be almost comical, a number that high, if it didn’t actually feel like 53 degrees. Guests find respite in air-conditioned rooms before climbing into game drive vehicles with beads of sweat rolling down their foreheads. Impalas stand in small groups, huddled in the shade of acacia trees, moving as little as possible to preserve the small amount of energy the sun has not already stolen from them. Lions lie deep in shaded thickets, belly to the sky, exposing as much skin as possible to the air, desperate for a breeze. Then Africa does the only the only thing she can in response to a heat like this. As the sun begins to wane she gathers the clouds and hangs them heavy in the sky above the bushveld. The air becomes still and stifling and the heat continues unrelentingly. Flashes of lightening dance in the distance and the deep vibrations of thunder roll through the land as we climb into bed, grateful for the air-conditioning.

At eleven pm a deafening crack awakens us. The electricity dies. We rush to open windows around the house, as the world is lit again and again and plunged back into darkness each time. The thunder cracks loud and sure, sometimes settling into a tremendous rumbling.  The open windows do nothing to ease the heat and the air is thick as molasses. Settled back in bed, lightening strobes my closed eyes and thunder continues its metallic roar. Slowly drops begin to fall. Larger drops splash on the increasingly water-soaked ground. The drops build until there is an army of them in full assault. Then the water pours down in sheets, as if suddenly Africa can no longer bear the heaviness of the drops gathered in her clouds. The electrical storm continues unabated, moving off into the distance as I drift precipitously close to sleep only to be awakened by a crash that is too close for the subconscious to tolerate. A slight breeze finally pushes through our window, providing sweet relief from the heat. The storm’s pattern of retreat and approach feels interminable but at some stage the rumbling makes its final departure.

As dawn arises the groggy feeling of interrupted sleep begins to clear, much like the clouds which dissipate on the horizon. Our house has flooded in the night. The air is even thicker than the day before, and I begin to feel I am wading through it. In total 80 mls has fallen. Not the biggest storm this area has seen by any stretch, but big enough. Zululand has been suffering from the worst drought in living memory over the last few years. There was a point the past winter where we questioned whether or not we would have any grass to recover once the rains arrived. 

To escape the humidity, I take a drive with the windows open, beckoning in any wind that is willing. I expect stillness in the bush in deference to the heat but instead the bush is full of life. Impalas drink from puddles in the road. Warthogs roll gleefully in muddy wallows. Giraffes use their dexterous charcoal tongues to nibble at the green leaves on the tops of acacias. Frogs croak in chorus from newly filled pans. Glossy-coloured starlings splash their ruffled feathers in puddles that function as makeshift birdbaths. Crickets sing their high-pitched calls. Waterbuck duck their furry heads as they stand under acacias chasing the shade. 

The bushveld is an impossible shade of green. In winter, the reality of the sepia-toned landscape pushes this colour of green into a black and white memory. It is only after rain, that this deep emerald green emerges and one remembers. This colour green is the visual representation of the nutrients that sustain the circle of life.
 In Zululand, the summer can be harsh, hot and unrelenting. The heat summons the storms, which fill the dams and the rivers and allow the grass, bushes and trees to grow. The storms themselves can be inconvenient and sometimes terrifying. A Zululand safari in summer can be an intimidating prospect, but I promise that every second of discomfort is infinitely rewarded when one sees the bushveld in all its glory, teeming with life. 

Written by Shannon Airton. Originally published on Africa Geographic online.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Tips for Taking Children on Safari

Tips for Taking Children on Safari

Written by Shannon Airton

What? Take children on an African safari?

The notion of taking kids on safari may seem both enticing and impractical. You imagine the exciting wildlife encounters, the iconic photographs you’ll take, the quality time spent with family and the lifelong memories you all will cherish. Then your kid throws a tantrum at the supermarket and you reconsider, thinking “If we can’t get through 30 minutes of shopping how are we going to survive a safari in Africa?” It can seem insurmountable. However, the question you should be asking is “Is it worth the challenge?” And to that, I can tell you that the answer is: “Yes, without a doubt”!

While this type of family holiday certainly has its challenges, with a little knowledge and preparation, you can all have the trip of a lifetime.

Here are my top 5 tips for taking kids on safari:

  1. Choose your destination wisely

For very young children, I believe the number one consideration is diseases and the preventative medicines that are required for protection. After a consultation with your doctor you will be able to make an informed decision on the destination that would best suit your family. Don’t despair, there are many areas in South Africa that are outside of the malaria-zone and are free of tropical diseases, like Rhino River Lodge

  1. Select your accommodation carefully

Self-driving, self-catering safaris may seem a safe option (being able to contain screaming kids in your own private car sounds comforting, I know), but this sort of holiday can be hard work for parents. On the other end of the spectrum, high-end luxury camps aren’t necessarily the most appropriate place to take kids.
  • Look for a family friendly establishment and
  • read the reviews to see if people with children have had positive experiences.
  • Try to find accommodation with a large range of activities available on-site or close by.
  • I also highly recommend booking a camp with a swimming pool which will help you fill those long leisurely hours in-between game drives (and expend extra energy).  

  1. Slow down

In my opinion long hours in cars, driving between destinations day after day, does not make for a memorable holiday for little ones, or for adults for that matter. Be realistic about your expectations. When you are at your destination don’t expect to be able to (or for your kids to want to) join in on every available activity. Give yourself enough time at each destination to be able to enjoy all aspects of the safari and not feel like you are missing out if your kids want to skip a game drive. Personally, I think the magic number is 3-4 nights per destination depending on your child’s temperament and the number of activities on offer.

  1. Start early by engaging your children with the idea and purpose of the trip  

Once the trip is booked, start to pique their interest in where you are going and what you will see. Do safari themed arts and crafts. Buy them a children’s guide book to the animals of the area. Take them shopping for their own binoculars or camera and have them start to practice using them beforehand so they are ready when they arrive. Your imagination is the limit on this one.

  1. Always be prepared.

Yes, you are probably going to have to pack a little heavy for this trip. Many safari locations and game parks  are remote and do not have access to the same goods you can buy at home. Bring along anything special your child requires that will make your life easier. This includes anything from medicine to a stash of travel-proof snacks your kids like. The last thing you want is a child crying “I’m hungry” mid-game drive. If your accommodation doesn’t provide a children’s activity packet, then look up some activities on the internet.

Watching your child’s face light up the first time they spot a wild lion or excitement as you track the footprints of a rhino is incomparable. These days, children are more disconnected with nature than ever before. Family holidays that encourage them to connect with the natural world are good for their bodies and souls. You may even find when children disconnect from the digital world they begin reconnecting with their families. So, while at first a safari may seem an unlikely suggestion for a family holiday, the safari experience is about connecting with nature and one another, and is best shared with those you love the most.

Written by Shannon Airton, Mom, Owner and Manager at Rhino River Lodge

Previously published on Things To Do with Kids

5 Fantastic Wildlife Sightings at Rhino River Lodge

One of my favourite questions to ask a game ranger is “What has been your favourite wildlife sighting so far?”
After all, surely they’d have some epic stories to tell after spending several hours out in the bush each day. However, to my dismay, the rangers often come up blank. It’s not that they haven’t witnessed anything spectacular; on the contrary, rangers witness so many special sightings that it can be hard to recall them all, let alone pick a favourite. (Tough life hey?)
Rhino River Lodge Ranger, Kyle Naude’, is one ranger who is particularly good at recalling sightings. As he is an avid photographer, Kyle loves to document his sightings while out on game drives and after several years in the bush, he’s seen a lot!
Prepare to go green with safari envy as Kyle shares his top 5 sightings from his time at Rhino River Lodge so far:

Lion Cubs in the Riverbed
Kyle: “I really enjoy photographing cats, especially when they are active. At the moment, we have quite a few lion cubs in the reserve which is providing great photographic opportunities. This is one of my favorite photographs because it is a reminder of an amazing sighting we had of two cubs in the riverbed. They were playing, stalking, jumping and tripping one another, and all this happened around the vehicle!”

Male Cheetah on Patrol
Kyle: “Seeing cheetah is in my top 5 of a ‘must have’ sightings. These animals are my absolute favourite. Fortunately, we have a male cheetah that often patrols around the Rhino River Lodge area and sightings of him are always good. This particular photo was taken when he was patrolling the southern fence line, alongside two other male cheetahs from the neighboring reserve.”
Playful Wild Dogs
Kyle: “Wild dogs are always fun to watch. They are very interactive with one another and there is never a dull sighting. This specific photo shows just that. After making an impala kill, the excited dogs began chasing each other around, as well as some nearby vultures that were trying their luck with the dogs’ kill.”


Leopard on a kill
Kyle: “Although this is not the best photo in the world, it is one of the best leopard sightings I have ever had. Earlier that afternoon we had found a dead impala. Not knowing what the cause of death was, I told all my guests that we will follow up in the evening. When we returned that night we found this beautiful female leopard feeding on the impala. Everyone was in awe and we were lucky enough to sit with her for 40 minutes before we decided to leave her to enjoy the rest of her meal.”

Grumpy Black Rhino
Kyle: “Black Rhino, what more do I need to say? I think with at least 70% of the sightings I have had with these amazing animals, I’ve been mock charged. With their infamous temper, it is always exciting seeing these animals. On this occasion, I was fortunate enough to capture this grumpy black rhino making a hard effort to entertain us.”
Never a dull moment at Rhino River Lodge! Armed with his radio and camera, we can’t wait to see what Kyle spots next.

Originally published at Africa Geographic.