The Great Fish River Game Reserve neighbouring Kwandwe also has the third most important population of black rhino in Southern Africa, demonstrating the importance of this region in black rhino conservation. The best time of year to do the rhino conservation safari is general from the beginning of May to the end of September, due to cooler weather conditions, however it can be done all year.
Set in the heart of South Africa’s scenic Eastern Cape Province, the 22,000 hectares (54 000 acres) Kwandwe Private Game Reserve offers guests the exclusive opportunity to help preserve threatened species on a Rhino Conservation Safari.
Kwandwe is also home to the famous Big 5 as well as a diverse number of more unusual and smaller species. Thousands of animals including black and white rhino, lion, buffalo, elephant and cheetah roam these extensive plains. The Reserve is also sanctuary to various other endangered species.
Guests can participate in the rhino notching, darting, and DNA sampling process all of which play a key role for conservation purposes. The trips also provide a thrilling understanding of Kwandwe’s white and black rhinos and their differing behavioural patterns.
In my experience, a three night/ four day stay is recommended at Kwandwe to allow for weather uncertainties should the group not be able to perform the procedure on the first morning. A group of up to eight guests undergo a full briefing and are all allocated explicit roles before accompanying Angus Sholto-Douglas, who is the MD and conversation manager, plus a wildlife vet to explore the reserve and to spot the rhino.
Once the rhino is darted and sedated, participants join the specialist ranger team on the ground and play their role in administering any further medication, taking measurements for medical and scientific purposes and monitoring the rhino whilst under sedation.
You also have an opportunity to drill the rhino horns for the insertion of microchips and perform ear-notching procedures for future identification – these are both essential tasks to ensure the preservation of these glorious animals. Once the procedure is completed, guests also have the opportunity to take a short aerial exploration of the Kwandwe reserve by helicopter.
The procedure is always subject to the availability of the wildlife management team as well as the availability of rhinos that need to be notched for conservations purposes.
On your first day, you arrive at Kwandwe, where you can settle in and relax. The afternoon is spent on a game drive. In the evening (before or after dinner) you attend a briefing on the following day’s events by Angus Sholto-Douglas, the Managing Director and conservation manager at Kwandwe.
On your second day in the morning you set out early for the Rhino Conservation Safari in a private vehicle. This includes an opportunity to take a short aerial exploration of the reserve by helicopter.
On completion of the procedure, you continue on a game drive or return to the lodge for breakfast. After a busy morning of conservation and game viewing, you can enjoy lunch at your own leisure. You can then enjoy a late afternoon game drive and potentially follow up on the rhino that was darted earlier that morning.
Your third day is spent at leisure to explore the reserve, either during game drives or on foot with qualified rangers and trackers (if the weather on day 2 was unfavourable, the rhino darting will take place on this day).
While there you can visit The Ubunye Foundation which is an independent, non-profit, charitable trust that currently invests in the development of twelve rural communities, two of which are located in the Kwandwe reserve.
On your fourth day, you depart from Kwandwe and can either return home if this section of your itinerary was taken at the end or continue your safari experience elsewhere as may have been arranged.