We hadn’t visited Chivero Game Park or stayed in the National Parks lodges there for far too long, so supporting the recent Animal and Wildlife Area Research and Rehabilitation (Aware) Trust Run-Walk-Ride for Rhino was a fine excuse to rediscover this excellent place.
OutDoors with Rosie Mitchell
Most who came said the same, and by the time the weekend was over, all pledged to return soon and more often!
This large, well-stocked, scenic game park with lots of fully equipped lodges, and camping facilities, is less than an hour’s drive from the city. If you want to see some of the world’s last remaining rhino, look no further.
Be informed and assured, however, that while you won’t actually see their hawk-eyed guardians, you’ll just enjoy watching these magnificent beasts, every single one of these precious animals is closely watched from nearby, full time, by a minimum of two armed National Parks Rangers, fully dedicated to their total protection!
Organised by energetic wildlife champion Tracey Hugill of Aware Trust, in partnership with National Parks, the event commemorated World Rhino Day, and raised funds for rhino conservation efforts. We opted to spend the whole weekend, to re-acquaint ourselves with what is on offer and participate in the Run-Walk-Ride for Rhino, with 5, 10 and 20 km options, through the Game Park.
We arrived after dark and were warmly welcomed by Parks staff at the gate. A power line had come down 10 minutes before our arrival, but to the credit of those who tackled the problem, Parks staff quickly arrived at our lodge bearing candles and matches, and power was amazingly restored within an hour.
The Rest Camp is well-placed near the lake shore, and has a few lodges nestling in the nearby hills. We went to see these and pledged to return and stay in one soon; delightfully secluded among rocks and boulders, with wonderful views.
The Run-Walk-Ride had a 9am start to enable participants who hadn’t spent the night to get there and register. There was a good turnout, with lots of families.
It was exceptionally hot, reaching 38˚C during the event, and given the extreme heat and dirt surfaces throughout which make running tougher, few attempted the 20km run. Only three of us finished it; first home was Martin in a superhuman 1 hour 10.
The other half dozen who started, accidentally missed the sign for the 3km loop — confusing to those who didn’t, as we met them walking back our way just beyond the run’s turning point, yet they had not actually passed us. I wondered if sun stroke was setting in; how could they all have overtaken me without my noticing? Confusion was removed when I reached the next water point and was informed of their mistake! The second 20k runner home, Chris, pipped me to the finish, in 2 hours.
I was happy with my 2 hours 5, under such extreme conditions; a very challenging run, but a wonderful one.
Along the route, I saw rhino; great to see the species for whose survival one is running; plus, impala and zebra, the scenery was stunning, and the route, well- marked.
Running in such heat takes its toll and makes the run much harder, so the landscape and animals were a good distraction, as were the friendly “water-holes”! I poured water over my head several times en route to cool down, and kept running to the end. Once I stopped however, it hit me just how exhausting that heat was!
Unusually, I could hardly speak for several minutes! I soon recovered and settled to enjoy the speeches and hip-hop dance and acrobatic show by the talented young crew of Extreme Vision. All riders, runners and walkers, whatever their age or chosen distance, thoroughly enjoyed themselves in spite of the infernal heat, many spotting game along the way.
Doctors Keith Dutlow and Lisa Marabini, Aware’s founding veterinarians, addressed the crowd following the return of all runners, riders and walkers.
Charlie Hewat of Environment Africa, the original Rhino Girl, attended with her team and spoke, as did National Parks representatives. There were several stands to visit, hosted by sponsors and environmental organisations.
Rhino Knight Isabel Wolf-Gillespie also gave a talk. Supported by husband Lloyd, she ran a half marathon (21km) and cycled 80 to 100 km every day for over 4 ½ months, covering nearly 10 000 km, raising awareness for the plight of the rhino, educating children about pressing environmental issues, networking with other rhino conservation organisations and conducting a survey on rhino conservation in southern Africa. She addressed over 16 000 schoolchildren in 41 schools during her epic journey, gave TV and radio interviews and received much media coverage.
During our lovely Chivero Park weekend, we went on three game drives and much enjoyed spotting and watching rhinos, giraffe, impala, ostrich, kudu, wildebeest and jackal. During our second rhino encounter, we were lucky enough to hear them audibly communicating with each other.
Rhino make the oddest little squeaky sounds, so incongruous with their enormous size.
Eventually, the female roughly rejected the male’s potential advances and he trotted off despondently. We also went to see the San paintings; very well-preserved and really fascinating. They include paintings of fish and people playing musical instruments. We spent a great weekend supporting rhino survival, socialising with like-minded environmentalists and rediscovering Chivero National Park — well worth more regular visits.
Tracey and the Aware team, Parks and many generous donors did a great job putting this event together.