Wednesday, August 26, 2015

New kids on the block in Zululand Rhino Reserve

Written by Hillary Gaertner

Good things come in threes. From fairytales to Hollywood blockbusters or, in this case, animal babies in the bush, the “rule of three” seems to always apply.

Zululand Rhino Reserve has recently been blessed with three different species of young. The reserve welcomed elephant calves, cheetah cubs and a rhino calf, which make a grand total of six new kids on the block.

Love has clearly been in the air and Rhino River Lodge rangers and guests have been soaking up the cute factor whenever the little ones decide to show their faces.


Ranger Frances Hannah tells us about her encounters with the youth of today as they so comically settle into life in the bush.

Elephant calves

“The two new elephant calves were born only one week apart, and I had a sighting of the elephant herd welcoming the little one into the clan. It was a lot of trunk hugging and flapping ears. A birth sac was found just up the river so it was definitely a newborn baby!”


White rhino calf

“We had a baby white rhino using the ‘speed humps’ as a ramp. He would speed up and almost lift off the ground as he sped over them as fast as he could. He would halt in a cloud of dust, turn around and start again. All the while his mom chomped grass in the field next to the road.”


Cheetah cubs

“We have two female cheetahs with cubs that we know of; one has two and the other has three. We spotted the mom and her two cubs on a red duiker kill, and the cubs resembled honey badgers with their lightening white fluffy backs. Only spotted legs and black tear marks gave them away as cheetah. Though they were less than three months old, they were tucking into their dinner with extreme gusto.”


There’s been a baby boom over the past couple of months but Ranger Frances hints that it isn’t going to stop anytime soon. “Not to let the cat out of the bag (pun intended), but we are led to believe that more lion cubs might be on the way.”

Hopefully there will be three new sets of cubs causing havoc in the private reserve soon, and the lodge’s “rule of three” will continue complete with great stories to be told.

Previously published on Africa Geographic.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Interview with a ranger: Frances Hannah

Frances Hannah is our head ranger here at Rhino River Lodge. We love Frances for her sharp sense of humour and calm presence. Frances may be a ranger by trade but she is one of the best writers we know and writes some of the best bush stories in the business. Frances shared a little bit about herself with us in the following interview:
Frances off duty; simply enjoying spending time in the bush

1.       What led you to your position at Rhino River Lodge?
I did a nature training course at a training provider in the area, I wanted to stay in the region as it was the bush I was familiar with. An opening came up in Zululand Rhino Reserve (ZRR) and I was in the right place at the right time. I graduated on the Friday, came for an interview on the Saturday and moved in on the Sunday, and the rest is history!

2.       What is your favourite part of being a game ranger?
My office always holds a new challenge and you can never really know what’s around the next corner. I am constantly surprised by my surrounds and its movements. 

Frances with guests on coffee break in the Msunduze River
3.       Any sighting on ZRR that stands out as your favourite?
It was cold and misty morning, we were on wide open plains and there were a few ostriches milling about in the open. I stopped, turned the engine off and was just taking in the setting, when like a domino effect all the ostriches started twirling in consecutive order. It was the most beautiful display I have ever seen and I’m not exactly sure why they did it. But the misty morning made it incredibly mysterious.

4.       You are a really talented writer, what do you find most inspiring as a subject?
When animals react to situations with a comical solution. I was once watching two lions laze about in the grass doing what lions do best: sleep. And all of a sudden a disgruntled black rhino appeared onto the scene and shook up the whole scenario by charging after a fully grown lion, the lion ran, tail between legs like a naughty school boy. I couldn’t wait to get paper to pen to describe the animals’ antics. 

5.       Do you have a favourite animal to view on game drives? If so, why?
Black rhino, they are one of the only animals in the bush that are interested to see you. Most other animals will turn an eye, whereas the black rhino is all ears and coming straight for you at the slightest whiff or sound. Its exhilarating, keeps you on your toes. 

6.       What do you love best about living in the bush?
Seeing the sunrise and sunset every day, the smell of potato bush in the evenings, the fact that when I call my family all they can hear is bird chatter. It’s an amazing lifestyle. 
On a cheetah sighting in the Zululand Rhino Reserve

7.       Any books on Africa, nature, conservation that you found inspiring?
I have read a few books by game rangers, it’s amazing how many stories one accumulates by living in the bush, never a dull moment! A simple act of driving to work or changing a tyre can turn into a story retold by the fire for years to come. Man with the Black Dog and A Game Ranger Remembers are a few off the top of my head. But I appreciate any story that has me glued by the first page.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Instagram Photo Competition Results

To celebrate the launch of our new Instagram account we ran a photo competition for all of our previous clients and the results were pretty spectacular.
Congratulations to Ashleigh Behrens @ashstormbehrens whose beautiful image of two lions won her a one night stay for two people.

Making our decision wasn't easy and we wanted to share with you some of our other favorite images.

Photographer Heidi Watson @heidzzn5 captured these two stunning images of cheetah.

Philip Morrison @pmorrison711 entered on of our favorite photos; this stunning lion.

Birds are one of the more difficult wildlife subjects to photograph. Ania Qazi @aniaqazi captured this gorgeous photo of a bee-eater.

Our winner Ashleigh Behrens submitted a few other outstanding photos as well.

Our favorite photo submitted of people enjoying safari comes from Daryn Kay @daryn09kay of this special moment of him proposing to his fiance at a private boma dinner at Rhino River Lodge. So sweet and we wish them a lifetime of happiness together as their wedding is approaching shortly.

Thanks to all who entered our competition. What a pleasure it was sharing all of your safari memories with you. Make sure to follow us on Instagram and on your future visits make sure to tag your photos with the hashtag #rhinoriverlodge.