I’ve seen how powerful wild Rhinos were on my visit to Kenya so finding out that there aren’t any wild ones left in Uganda was heartbreaking. But much to my delight, there was a nonprofit organization that is striving to conserve rhinos in Uganda and currently has 30 white rhinos on their ranch at the time of my visit to the country. And the great thing is that we pass by their ranch where they house the rhinos on the road and got to meet these majestic animals on foot.
Uncontrolled poaching of rhinos in Uganda during the late 70’s and early 80’s exterminated the wild rhino population in Uganda. But all was not lost when the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary was established in 2005 due to the great coordination between The Rhino Fund Uganda and Uganda Wildlife Authority. Their goal was to reintroduce the white rhinos back in Uganda.
The sanctuary is operating in a ranch with a huge territory that currently spans 7000 hectares. Their conservation project was very popular in and outside the country that multiple organizations like zoos donated rhinos to the sanctuary to be bred. They started with just six white rhinos and now it is home to 30, the only ones found in Uganda.
The sanctuary is located along the Kampala-Gulu highway. Travelers can pass by on their way to Murchison Falls National Park in the Nakasongola District. The sanctuary is protected with a 2-meter high electric fence and has 24-hour security.
It’s a must-visit for those travelers in Uganda looking to complete the full safari experience. Plus, every visit contributes to Uganda’s tourism and the sanctuary’s conservation efforts. It’s a small step for them to reintroducing these magnificent creatures back to the wild. And seeing the white rhinos in the huge sanctuary, knowing that there are no other ones in Uganda was a special sort of experience.
Today, thanks the huge territory of the sanctuary and the tight protection it’s under allowed the landscape within the territory to flourish and the rhinos to multiply. Other than the rhinos, a huge number of other species of birds and mammals are also thriving in the sanctuary, making it even more attractive for tourists to visit.
The Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is famous for activities like rhino trekking, birding, nature walks, and night walks. On our visit, we only got to do the rhino trekking because we traveling back to Kampala from Murchison Falls National Park so we only had a few hours to spare.
Rhino trekking was such a fun activity where we hired a guide from the sanctuary and he took us close to the rhinos in our vehicles. When we’re at a certain distance, he guided us on foot to take a closer look at the rhinos about 7 meters away. By that point, we already did some chimpanzee trekking back in Budongo Forest so I have some idea on what to expect and the do’s and don’ts.
Compared to the chimpanzee trekking in Budongo Forest which kept me on alert at all times, seeing the rhinos on foot was quite relaxing. It was a peaceful feeling being on the ground while the rhinos grazed on the grass completely unbothered by our presence. I got to see a rhino out in the wild before on my Kenya trip but we were on a safari vehicle. It’s my first time to see them on fooot, we were lucky to have seen the youngest rhino ( 3 months old) during this time. We spent an hour trekking and quietly observing the rhinos until it was finally time to head back to the road and to Kampala. It’s crazy to know that the rhinos we encountered are extinct anywhere else in Uganda but I’m glad that they are making an effort to raise those numbers again.
Cost of Rhino Trekking in Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary
There are different prices for Ugandan citizens and foreigners who want to go rhino trekking. But at 45 USD for the rhino trekking fee and a guide to take us, that’s relatively cheap compared to other safari activities outside of Uganda. We also have to separately pay for a vehicle to take us around the sanctuary, plus the driver for about 25 USD per car.
The good thing is they accept card so you won’t have to go through the hassle of exchanging currency.
Things to Remember
- Stay quiet and don’t make any quick movements, especially on foot. You don’t want to spook the rhinos and charge your group
- Follow the sanctuary rules which will be introduced by the guide, you might get fined if you failed to do so
- The terrain is quite flat with sparse trees to protect you from the sun so I recommend to bring sunblock or coverup
- If you’re there visiting during the rainy season, the terrain can get muddy so be prepared to bring rainboots but the guides may be able to provide a pair for you if you’re lucky
- There is to be strictly no flash photography or food while on the trek
- Bring ample amounts of bug spray
- Also, watch where you’re stepping while on foot, you don’t want to step on rhino poop