Have you ever wondered what it feels like to stare down an 1,100 kilogram beast with no fence between the two of you? Ron Swilling recently went tracking with the Save the Rhino Trust in the Kunene Region of Namibia. The following is an excerpt of her account of the experience.
A lone cloud trails though a true-blue Namibian sky. Everything slows down and freezes as I face the Damaraland denizen, his prehistoric form linking me momentarily to generations of his ancestors that survived the tumultuous evolutionary journey through the millennia. His ears rotate, small grey radar dishes – listening, certain that he’s heard intruders in his territory. His small, beadlike eyes scan the blurry horizon. I inhale, keeping my mischievous breath prisoner for long seconds, like a naughty child who wants to burst out into the sunshine, while he, head up, serenely contemplates the scenario. The benevolent wind keeps the secret of my presence to herself. My heart beats too loudly.
Shhhh…I don’t move, my body rooted to the ground with a cement-like weight that feels too heavy to coax into movement, should the need arrive. All is hushed, except for the distant birds and hum of insects that are unaware of the enormity of the movement. And all is quiet, save for the long grass that dances with the memory of a good summer rainshower. The sun shines down, impervious.
The 1,000-kilogram beast lowers his head and moves on. Life’s pause button is released and the day continues as if the frozen hiccup of time has never been. I exhale and gulp the dry air, my throat parched. The blood flows back into my face. I have been given a reprieve to reflect on the power encounter and to consider why, amidst the many possible kinds of adventure, I had chosen this dauntin, heart-stopping and awe-inspiring experience.
Nowadays adventure usually involves catapulting your body through the air in different ways. This more sedate rhino-tracking adventure, although just as intense an adrenaline experience, has its origins and focus in conservation, offering the rare opportunity to view the small population of black rhino that has found a home in Namibia’s Kunene Region. So, leaving the gung-ho adrenaline junkies to their escapades in Swakopmund and at Vic Falls, and the safari-seekers eager to tick off the Big Five in Namibia’s national parks, I had opted to connect to the earth and an animal whose solid four-wheel-drive appearance belies its vulnerability.
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