A Date with Rhino River Lodge’s Wilderness

“I’m on a date with the wilderness!” This is what I kept thinking to myself from each sunrise to sunset during my two night stay at Rhino River Lodge. I was cuddled by mountains that made for the most stunning photo backdrops and defrosted by sunrises and hot chocolates as I patiently watched Mother Nature begin her morning ritual.
Early morning safari with Rhino River Lodge

Yes, it was a weekend long romance that was dictated by the rising and setting of the sun and I adored every millisecond of it. The wildlife also seemed to be on cue with the sun’s rhythm, which made for dramatic and incredibly moving sightings that the universe must have been smiling down upon.
Sunrise over the Zululand Rhino Reserve

Sunrise over the Zululand Rhino Reserve

The morning sun inched its way above the mountains, and as we began to shed our blankets and winter layers the “Ferrari safari game vehicle” came across the first big prize of the day, the beautiful bull elephant that happened to be in musth.

At this point he was amongst the trees, but as he became aware of the game vehicle, he decided to make his presence a bit more known. We were in such awe of this big guy making his way to our cruiser that we didn’t notice his male friend coming from the other direction. Did I just say friend? I meant foe!
Elephant sighting with Rhino River Lodge in the Zululand Rhino Reserve

But before elephant #1 made headway to elephant #2, he decided to give our hearts a reason to skip a beat. He came shockingly close to the backend of our cruiser. So close only his face could be seen when looking back. Our poor photographer tried to snap a quick picture, but because of the close proximity, her camera’s autofocus didn’t manage to do its job.

Our ranger, Kyle, handled the situation with such style and ease and slowly moved the vehicle away to give the elephant bull his space. We then watched from a distance as the elephant in musth decided to battle with his foe for the day.

Two elephants face up on the Zululand Rhino Reserve with Rhino River Lodge

Only a thorny tree stood between the two grey giants. But if you saw the catastrophe of the surroundings, smashed branches and trees uprooted, you could tell a battle had been fought. Heart palpitations aside, it was a wild and wonderful sighting we were lucky to witness.

Large bull elephant in the Zululand Rhino Reserve with Rhino River Lodge

Fast forward to the sunset and re-layering of jersey and blankets. A cheetah greeted our path as the sky transformed into a pretty blend of purple and orange. I was officially convinced Mother Nature and the reserve’s wildlife were on some sort of secret wavelength.

Cheetah sillouehtte at sunset

There he was winding in and out of the bush, as our heads simultaneously weaved with every slight movement the stealthy creature made. All that could be heard was the sniffling of our noses as the nippy weather and colourful skies set the moody scene for our cheetah sighting.

Cheeta sighting at night in the Zululand Rhino Reserve with Rhino River Lodge
We couldn’t believe that this animal, unsurpassed by speed, was so gracefully still and posing for our photography pleasure. The moment was ours and we didn’t have to share it with anybody else, thanks to the exclusivity of the reserve. Fast, fearsome, strong, wild, and oh so private setting to observe the cheetah at dusk.
cheetah photographed on a night drive in the Zululand Rhino Reserve with Rhino River Lodge

My date with Rhino River Lodge’s wilderness and welcomed wildlife was a record breaking 10 out of 10. Not a moment would have been changed, and that’s when you know you’ve found a keeper, or in this case a winning spot in the African bush.

Written by guest, Hilary Gaertner.
Originally published by ThisIsKZN

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