Off the Kampala – Gulu highway is Ziwa Rhino sanctuary; a wildlife ranch that harbors the country’s only Rhino population. It is located approximately 176 kilometers (100 miles) north of Kampala in Nakasongola district off Nakitoma trading centre as you approach Murchison Falls National Park in north western Uganda.
Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary was established in 1983, initially as a cattle ranch intended to introduce exotic cattle to Uganda. Following the extinction of Rhinos in the 1990’S due to poaching and ineffective wildlife conservation measures, however, the director of the Rhino Fund proposed to turn the cattle ranch into a Rhino Sanctuary.
The process started in 2002 with fundraising efforts for the Rhino project and relocating about 7,000 cattle that were on the ranch. In 2005, the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary was officially opened and a few animals that had been bought and donated were introduced. Currently the Rhino population has more than doubled; from 6 southern White Rhinos in 2005 to about 33 individuals and counting.
Since then, this Rhino project has been majorly run and supported by the Uganda Wildlife Authority in conjunction with the Rhino Fund and the Ziwa Rhino and Wildlife Ranch Limited. Several world organizations and countries have occasionally offered support as well, all working towards the goal to increase the number of Southern White Rhinos and reintroduce them into the national parks around the country.
Visiting Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is a one in a lifetime kind of experience! This enormous ranch has become a refuge for not only southern white Rhinos but several other wildlife species as well. It is the perfect balance between adventure, calm and nature. You can be one of the many travelers that walk the conservation path of Ziwa.
What you can do
There is no other place to see Rhinos in Uganda other than Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. With about 33 southern White Rhinos on the premises, you are able to experience what it would truly feel like viewing these large beasts in the wild. Although not in their natural habitat, the Rhinos have plenty of space to roam, graze and even reproduce.
Rhino tracking is done of foot, starting off with a drive from the reception area and into the bush. The rangers accompanying you will then ask you to get out of the vehicle and proceed deeper into the forest area. You are able to watch them graze and play with their young within a safe meter distance. After your tracking experience, you are driven back to the reception area or your camp.
The time spent on your Rhino tracking experience may last between 1 and 2 hours, depending on where you have found the Rhinos. A short briefing about what to expect and the rules to follow is always given before the trek. Although tracking runs through the entire day, you can opt for either a morning session from 8:00 am to 10:00 or an afternoon session from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm.
What you will need
Birding and nature walks:
There are about 300 bird species at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. Enjoy an early morning nature walk from 07:00 am to 9:00 am or in the evening from 16:00pm to 18:00pm to catch all your favorite birds. It is an equally great way to relax after a Rhino tracking adventure. All the birding safaris last two hours.
Care taking role:
Other than Southern White Rhinos, Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is home to a number of other species such as; waterbucks, Uganda Kobs, bushbuck and Oribis. Among these animals, most are rescues and orphans; victims of poaching and illegal trade. Your role as a caretaker for the day is to get near these animals, feed them and care for them. This experience is quite unique on safari and definitely one worth exploring.
Shoe bill trek and canoe ride:
As early as 6:00 am, visitors at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary embark on a canoe ride within Lugogo swamp to find the highly sought after Shoebill. This unique and intriguing bird is quite abundant here, in that you might enjoy up to 11 sightings in one trip! Visitors are cautioned to spend the night at Ziwa in order to participate in this experience.
Where to sleep
Ziwa Rhino Campsite, Backpackers & Lodge
This is the only accommodation facility located within Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. It offers visitors single and double rooms, a dorm room and camping grounds, depending on the nature of their safari. The rooms in the two guest houses are spacious, comfortable and offer unending views of the ranch and wildlife. Group travelers often opt for the dormitory while the more adventurous camp out in the wild.
Please remember to carry your camping gear otherwise, you would have to hire on the premises.
When to go
The best time for you to spend with Uganda’s only Rhino population is during the dry months from June to July and from late December to January. Please note that these dry seasons are also peak seasons and safari prices might be higher than usual.
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