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Beneath the African Skies

Beneath the African Skies: A night time safari experience at Rhino Sands As the game drive departs the lodge in the late afternoon, the wildlife viewing commences. It’s a seamless transition from the human-made to the natural world, where every turn and trail brings discovery. The evening game drive is unlike any other, offering a unique opportunity to witness the nocturnal wildlife come to life under the vast, starlit skies.     As the drive progresses, a special moment awaits—sundowners in the wilderness. This cherished safari tradition involves stopping in a picturesque location to enjoy drinks and snacks as you watch the sun cascade in a breathtaking display of colours across the sky. The immense beauty of the sunset, with silhouettes of some of the animals visible in the distance, provides a perfect backdrop for reflection and admiration of the day’s end in the African bush. The air cools, and the sounds of the day give way to the more mysterious noises of the night, adding an element of excitement and unpredictability to your safari experience.  A day in the reserve As the sun begins to dip below the horizon, casting a golden glow across the African bush, your adventure at Rhino Sands truly begins. Your guide, with their in-depth knowledge of the area and its inhabitants, navigates the rugged terrain with ease. Their expertise not only ensures a safe journey through the wilderness but also enriches the experience with fascinating insights about the behaviours and habitats of the nocturnal animals you encounter. Equipped with spotlights, the vehicle illuminates the darkness, revealing the glowing eyes of creatures hidden in the shadows. It’s a thrilling experience to spot a herd of elephants on the move or even the rare sight of a lion pride on the move under the cover of darkness.    As the drive continues, you’re enveloped in the beauty and tranquillity of the African night. The guide occasionally stops, allowing you to listen to the symphony of sounds – from the distant roar of a lion to the soft chirping of crickets and the rustle of leaves as animals move stealthily through the bush. These moments of stillness are profound, reminding you of your place in the natural world and the privilege of witnessing these wild spaces as they have existed for millennia.     Upon returning to Rhino Sands, the magic of the safari doesn’t end. You’re welcomed back to the camp with warm, ambient lighting leading you to a beautifully set table under the stars. The dinner you pre-selected awaits, each course a culinary delight that complements the day’s experiences. Dining outdoors, surrounded by the night sounds and under the African sky, is the perfect way to reflect on the day’s adventures and the beauty of the wilderness that surrounds you.    After dinner, the evening can be spent relaxing by the fire pit, sharing stories of the day’s sightings with fellow guests, or simply gazing up at the stars, contemplating the vastness of the universe and the timeless beauty of the African bush. The luxurious, yet eco-friendly accommodations at Rhino Sands ensure a comfortable sleep, with the sounds of the wild serving as a natural lullaby.    A nighttime safari at Rhino Sands is more than just a game drive; it’s an immersive experience that connects you deeply with nature. It’s about feeling the heartbeat of the African wilderness, understanding the importance of conservation, and leaving with a renewed sense of wonder for the natural world. As dawn breaks and a new day begins, you’re left with unforgettable memories of the night’s mysteries and the enduring beauty of Africa. 

The pangolins of Manyoni: A conservation success story

We can say with certainty that seeing one of the pangolins of Manyoni Private Game Reserve will be one of the most unforgettable experiences of your life. In just three years, the adult Temminck’s ground pangolins of Manyoni now total 14 and, to the absolute joy and pride of all, four pango-pups were born on the reserve last year. It is a huge triumph for pangolin conservation in Zululand, where the species has been locally extinct for almost 70 years. Accounting for about 20% of the entire illegal wildlife trade, pangolins are now the most trafficked mammals in the world. They are highly sought after for their meat and scales, which are made of keratin – the same material as your finger and toe nails. Rehabilitating and rewilding the pangolins of Manyoni The team at Manyoni work closely with the Zululand Conservation Trust, African Pangolin Working Group and the Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital to establish a viable population of pangolins in the reserve. With the help of the South African Police Service (SAPS), the pangolins are confiscated from the illegal wildlife trade, arriving at the veterinary hospital in poor health due to the stress, dehydration and malnutrition suffered while with poachers. Once they have made a full recovery under the intensive care and nursing by the dedicated vet team, the pangolins begin a ‘soft-release program’ in Manyoni and other designated reserves. Each day, their dedicated ‘pangolin shepherd’ takes them out into a part of the reserve most suitable for them to explore and encounter ant and termite mounds. If necessary, their shepherd will show them how to break into the mounds, where they will then use their long (up to 70cm), sticky tongues to slurp up the juicy ants. During this first phase, the pangolins are monitored intensively to ensure they acclimatize, are able to find suitable food and gain enough weight before they are released fully. The soft release also provides an important and unique opportunity for research as little is known about these intriguing creatures. It takes two months on average for pangolins to be ready for the ‘hard release’ when they will go into the reserve equipped with a tracking device to allow the team to monitor and protect them. The pangolin walking experience This ground-breaking conservation program is resulting in a thriving – and growing – population of pangolins in Manyoni. It is providing a second chance for previously poached pangolins and contributing to the survival of the species. The pangolin program is financed solely from donor funding through the Zululand Conservation Trust. The tags, telemetry equipment, veterinary costs, vehicles and fuel, and salaries for the pangolin monitoring team are all vital but extremely costly. You can help give rescued Temminck’s ground pangolins another chance at a happy life by booking a pangolin walking experience. This is an amazing opportunity to see a pangolin first-hand as you walk with a pangolin and its shepherd during a monitoring session. Please note that this activity costs R1000 and is subject to availability. If you would like to add the pangolin walking experience to your stay with us, we suggest booking it in advance to make sure you don’t miss out. Enquire further with our Reservations Team when booking your Rhino Sands safari or book directly with the Zululand Conservation Trust here.

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