At that moment, we made a silent pact: move
swi;ly, remain quiet and, hopefully, see one of
these majestic creatures up close.
Don’t let the name fool you — white rhinos
aren’t “white,” but rather light gray in color.
;ey are also much larger than their darker
counterparts and have a longer
head and wider mouth, according
to Jay Parmar, owner of U. S.-based
tour operator Wander Africa. Another helpful
identi;er? You guessed it: the animal’s poop.
While the waste of black rhinos is made of
splint-like materials — usually chopped o; at a
45-degree angle — white rhinos will produce a
much grassier manure.
;e park, which is located in central
Zimbabwe, has populations of both black and
southern white rhinos. We were tracking the
latter — a species of grazers introduced to the
area in 1964 from neighboring South Africa,
according to Emmerson Magodhi, tourism
manager for Matobo. White rhinos are found
in multiple parts of the park, while black rhinos
are con;ned to a special game area. An Inten-
sive Protection Zone distinction protects these
creatures from poachers, and armed security
rangers patrol 24 hours per day (we were
accompanied by one such ranger throughout
Matobo also attracts tourists for its many
hiking trails, unique landscape and rich
history; the land features rock art le; by
ancient dwellers and is home to the grave of
British imperialist Cecil John Rhodes. It’s also
only about a 40-minute drive from Bulawayo,
Zimbabwe’s second-largest city and an international hub serviced by South African Airways,
Ethiopian Airlines, Emirates and more.
Tracking rhinos here is much like a game
of hide-and-seek, and it’s a task made easier by
using the animal’s “natural” clues, and the fact
that these so-called “hiders” tend to move very
slowly, only changing sleeping positions once
every 30 to 40 minutes.
“Rhino tracking is one of those rare
opportunities in life for tourists to come close
to an animal that is a ‘world over’ while in its
natural environment,” Magodhi said. “It is one
of the most adventurous experiences one can
do in their lifetime.”
We walked for just ;ve minutes more, and
then we saw them: two white rhinos, their
slate-gray hue serving as a form of camou;age
against a background of towering granite
rocks. ;e pair patiently allowed us to play
paparazzi — not a bad ending to our grown-up
game of hide-and-seek. X
Note: A rhino-tracking experience needs to be
booked with the park at least one or two days in
advance. ;ose interested in reserving this should
contact park o;cials at malemetourism@gmail.
com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
;e Details: Matobo National Park
I FELT LIKE A DOWNRIGHT TRAILBLAZER as I trekked through the grassy plains of Zimbabwe’s Matobo National Park,
hopscotching over fallen branches and
crunchy, dried leaves.
Up ahead, a group of fellow explorers had
formed a tight semicircle, with their
eyes ;xed to the ground and grins
stretching from ear to ear. I picked
up my pace and caught up, only to be met with
a steaming pile of … poop.
;e fanfare had nothing to do with the
dung itself, but rather what it represented.
;ese droppings were fresh; they had been
le; by an adult southern white rhino that was
likely just minutes ahead of us on the trail.
Seeking out southern white rhinos in Zimbabwe’s Matobo National Park
by EMMA WEISSMANN
Populations of southern white rhinos can be found within
Matobo National Park in central Zimbabwe.