• Meerkat family huddling together.
    The Bush Telegraph

A Rare Encounter on Safari: Black and White Rhinos at the Waterhole

Posted on Tue May 7, 2024.

During a recently hosted safari, our guests from America and we witnessed a remarkable and rare encounter at a waterhole. A black rhino cow and her young calf confronted a white rhino bull, an unusual interaction as these two species typically don't cross paths.

A South African safari is always an adventure, but every once in a while, the wilderness gifts you with a truly extraordinary sighting. Last week, while hosting an American family on a private safari, we experienced just such a moment—one that will be etched in our memories for years to come.

We were on a late afternoon game drive on a private game reserve, when, as we approached a waterhole, the golden hues of the autumn bushes framed a scene that stunned us all: a black rhino cow with her young calf. This alone was a rare and exhilarating sight, given that black rhinos are one of the most endangered species in Africa, with fewer than 7,000 left in the wild.

However, what made this encounter even more remarkable was the presence of a white rhino bull just a few feet away. Generally, these two species don't interact with each other. Black rhinos are browsers, preferring to eat from bushes and trees, while white rhinos are grazers, favoring grasslands. This difference in diet and behavior usually keeps them apart, making this encounter truly unique.

The scene before us was filled with tension. The black rhino cow was clearly agitated, perhaps feeling threatened by the white rhino's proximity to her calf. She began to snort and paw at the ground, displaying classic signs of aggression. The white rhino bull, however, seemed remarkably unbothered, lounging near the waterhole, taking slow sips, and occasionally glancing at the mother and her calf.


What happened next was truly astonishing. As the white rhino bull lay down to rest, the black rhino cow continued to harass him, walking up toward him and attempting to drive him away. The young calf, mimicking its mother's behavior, even prodded the much larger white rhino with its tiny horn. Despite the difference in size and strength, the calf's boldness was striking.

Hylton and I, along with our guests, watched in awe as this rare interaction unfolded before us. The drama continued for quite some time, with the black rhino cow persistently challenging the white rhino. This was a once-in-a-lifetime sighting—one that reminded us of the incredible complexity and unpredictability of nature. To witness such a rare interaction between two distinct species, especially involving the critically endangered black rhino, was a privilege and a reminder of the importance of conservation efforts.

As we drove away, we couldn't help but feel grateful for the opportunity to share this special moment with our guests. It was a safari experience they—and we—would never forget.