A Crash Of Rhinoceroses

This was the time we had to look up the collective noun for rhinos.

So here it is... a crash of rhinoceroses.

But first things first. With a tight schedule, we had initially debated whether driving to the park was actually going to be worth it. Even though people we met did say that we'd be able to see some rhinos, we were skeptical even as we were driving inside through the park gate. Not too long after we had entered our skepticism vanished, as we began to make out brown hillocks in the distance. Turned out, the hillocks were in fact mounds of around a dozen rhinoceroses -- well, just lying there -- in the middle of an open field.

If you're into wildlife photography, this could be your big breakthrough. We could see many rhinos by randomly driving around. Some were drinking out of the many water holes, others suddenly emerging from the bushes, and still others who seemed visibly annoyed when we didn't yield to them as they were trying to jay walk in front of our car. And so could you. Mind you, anything in the small country of Swaziland, ahem, eSwatini, can be considered big, but the Royal Hlane National Park, where we spent the better part of a day chasing rhinos and hippos, was one of the greatest on our trip. The best thing we cherished in our travel here is the tranquility, meaning we hardly came across other cars all day, and so the rush of adrenaline, when it occurred for the family, took place with no other soul in site.

In some instances, curiosity made us step out of the car to photograph the rhinos. In case you're wondering, that's a huge no-no! So don't even think of doing this. We were extremely careful, and kept a safe distance at all times. But with bushes, shrubs, and trees all around us, this was still risky, and possibly foolish. Like the pair of big guys here, who scrutinized us for some time and decided that the cost benefit ratio of charging at us likely doesn't make sense. Considering, especially, we were not their usual diet of green grass.

Ultimately, by far the most potent killers in Africa happens to be a different species altogether: hippopotamuses. Most don't know this, but they're extremely dangerous, and even with their massive body size, can run almost as far as a horse. We didn't want to test those huge canines, so although we took our SUV right to the water's edge to catch a whole bloat of hippos – there's the collective noun again, this time for hippos – we had the good sense of not getting out of our vehicle.

Most visitors to the park are quite content to see the big animals. Apart from the rhinos and hippos there are also elephants, lions, and leopards. If you’d like to see the lions though you’d need to get inside an enclosure, for which you’d need a mandatory guided tour. Our recommendation would be to soak up the tranquility of the region for a few days, since you’ll certainly not get that in any of the more popular spots.

  • YIELD TO THE BEASTS

    Really, you should visit eSwatini, especially if you're already visiting South Africa. You'd inevitably come across rhinos here, and even when you're trying to avoid you, they'll find you. But with hardly any tourists around, you'll get a feeling that all this unspoiled beauty is just for yours to soak up.

  • FACE OFF

    We were in a vulnerable position during this shot, surrounded by forest, and quite some distance from our car, but thankfully, the rhinos decided not to charge. There are just too  many rhinos at this National Park. Being in a remote place in a remote country, thankfully, not too many tourists even know about the park. However, we wouldn't recommend letting down your guard, and especially getting out of your car to come face to face with the animals, like we had done to get this shot.

  • TRIBAL DANCE

    A visit to the Swazi cultural village is a must if you’re visiting the country. There’s a small fee, but it covers an entire guided tour of their beehive huts as well as a tribal dance routine (sibhaca). There’s also a tour to the Mantenga Falls, which is impressive in its own rights, more so with the lush green all around it. If you keep your eyes wide open, you might be rewarded by the sights of nyalas, duikers, warthogs, baboons, and vervet monkeys.

  • FEATHERS ABOUND

    There are many more animals you can see at the Royal Hlane National Park, which is why it’s so important to visit the place. Of course, there are the big mammals, like the hippos, rhinos, zebras, and antelopes, but over 250 species of feathered friends, which are easy to spot. Like this southern yellow-billed hornbill (Tockus leucomelas) seen here attempting to take cover in the surrounding thorny bushes, some of the bird species you’ll spot here are either endangered or locally extinct in the country.

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