Male black rhino
Male Black Rhino

“The still lake without ripples is an image of our minds at ease, so full of unlimited friendliness for all the junk at the bottom of the lake that we don’t feel the need to churn up the waters just to avoid looking at what’s there.” -Pema Chödrön

We had a long drive today from the Sedia Hotel in Maun to the Khama Rhino Sanctuary. The kilometers poured by featuring an ever-changing landscape. Mostly open pastures, scrubland with the notorious spiny bushes, small towns with ramshackle roadside tin shops offering everything from fruits and made-to-order take-away to tires, haircuts, candy, and cell phone data. The road is peppered with goats, cows, and donkeys so much that any deceleration is assumed due to an animal in the road. At one point an oncoming car had to stop completely and wait while a mama donkey and her foal stood resolutely in front of the bumper, ankles cocked in a relaxed asana and no intention of moving.

Despite 50% cloud cover, in a show of megawatt power, today’s sky was blindingly bright, piercing the backs of my eyeballs like when you look straight at the sun or freshly fallen snow on a sunny day. But I’m loving the heat, especially knowing that parts of my home state are getting clobbered in snow.

We passed a deceased cow on the road shoulder visited by dozens of nature’s great cleanup crew: white backed vultures. Despite their reputation at home as ugly opportunistic scavengers, they are magnificent birds and a key part of nature’s recycling program.

We arrived at the Khama Rhino Sanctuary by early afternoon with time to set up camp before heading out on a game drive.

Khama covers 8600 hectares on the edge of the Kalahari Desert (easy to believe once you see the beachy sand throughout the reserve) and offers camping. directly. in. the. sanctuary. As in, there are no fences between you and the rhinos, leopards, warthogs, zebras, etc! Other than rhinos and leopards there are no other “Big Five” on this reserve (no lions, elephants, or buffalo) so that offered some peace.

The Sanctuary protects 40 white and six black rhinos (four females, two males, and a baby due soon!) There are only 5500-6100 black rhinos left on the planet. Additionally, the Sanctuary has its own anti-poaching cavalry and hasn’t lost a rhino to poaching since it began.

Our very first sighting on the game drive was a magnificent male black rhino who took my breath away. Never did I think I’d have such a primal reaction to seeing a rhino but there it was. And as dangerous as they can be, we found this one eating mini sunflowers in a field. Awww. Just a sweet combination of huge-tough combined with tiny-delicate. Don’t we all have similar juxtapositions within? His mum was poached when he was a young cub and Khama has home ever since.

Male black rhino eating sunflowers. Huge, handsome, powerful, dangerous, deserving of respect-distance-conservation

If you visit the Sanctuary, take the game drive! Our guide, O.G. (initials because he says his name is too hard for us foreigners to pronounce) demonstrated mastery in spotting animals in the thickening bush (thanks to recent rains), describing the difference between males and females of any species, and interesting facts about them. If you take a guided tour of any kind here in Africa, be sure to tip your guide(s). The custom is about $3 USD per guide per visitor and not only are the guides worth it but their families rely on them. Tip generously whenever possible.

Do you know how to tell the difference between a black rhino and a white one? Hint: it’s not color.

🦏It’s the shape of their mouth (white is wide, black is pointed for pulling bark off trees);

🦏The size of their head (white is bigger and they hold their heads more erect);

🦏Watching what they eat (blacks eat bark, leaves, sunflowers, and twigs, whites graze grass). This can be determined by a dung inspection as well.

In addition to seeing several rhinos, dozens of zebras (many of whom were mere meters from the Jeep), many species of delicate antelope, and feathery ostriches, the sanctuary is home to brown hyenas, 250 species of birds, and much more.

We learned that rhino horns, which are like fingernails, can reach 1.5 meters once they animals are 30 years old (they live an average of 49 years). Some reserves cut them off or dye them to prevent poaching but the Khama’s are au naturale.

White rhinos. Check out the long horn on the left. This is a mother about 30 years
White rhinos. Baby on far right is 3.5 months old! So cute

Since today is our last day in the wild, we had a closing circle over dinner then retired for an early start.

The jet black sky made for exceptional viewing of Orion’s Belt and other constellations, lit regularly by a spectacular heat lightning show all night. I felt a bit like a small player in a dinosaur movie or Land of the Lost (remember that 70s show?) with the classic trees, landscape and lightning.

Fighting a headache until the wee hours and unable to sleep after hearing a leopard’s low rumble and warthogs snapping undergrowth just behind my tent, I turned around in my abode so I could do a little self-reflection while peering through the screen up into a tranquil, hypnotic sky. It was impossible not to acknowledge how different I am and feel since I arrived; my mind, heart, and life feel spacious, peaceful, calm; the constant internal jibberjabber lost its novelty on Day 2 (?) and has been replaced by quiet wonder, a groundedness, and commitment to retain this spaciousness. Only then amidst this consciousness could I let go and finally drift off to sleep.



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A small breeding herd of impala
African sunset over wildebeest

4 responses to “Khama Rhino Sanctuary and Meditation by Starlight – 12/17/22”

  1. Janice Avatar

    So exciting to see the wild in their own habitant. Are you heading home for Christmas and the snow?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wen Avatar

      Yes! I’ll be home tonight ❤️


  2. hunbunx2 Avatar

    Don’t know if last reply posted so will say again that you are one BRAVE soul. Hearing any noise outside my sleeping area would scare me to death. Beautiful pictures!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wen Avatar

      Haha. Thanks. I think it’s one thing to read about it and another to be here in it after being around wild animals for two weeks. It was scary but not bad as long as I was in my tent. However, that said, when I had to pee like an elephant at midnight, my fear became real in a hurry! That’s a story for another time 😉


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