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Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary In Uganda

Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is home to the only wild rhinos in Uganda! The sanctuary is one of the best places to visit during your Uganda safaris. It contains a guesthouse, campground, restaurant, research and conservation center, and 7,000 hectares of untouched rhino habitat. This non-profit Uganda rhino sanctuary is managed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority, which is in charge of protecting wildlife inside the National Parks

Its primary purpose is to build a sustainable population of rhinos in Uganda and relocate them back to their original habitat-protected areas. Not just rhinos, the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary boast over 300 species of Uganda birds and several other species of animals. And there’re a number of amazing things to do, including tracking wild rhinos on foot.

Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary

How To Get To Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary?

Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is located in Nakasongola District, about 123km/4-5 hours’ drive northwest of Uganda’s capital, Kampala. It is situated near Budongo Forest and Murchison Falls National Park– the best game park for wildlife safaris in Uganda. It is possible to visit Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary on a day trip from Kampala or Entebbe. You’d just need to get a very early morning start.

You drive northwest, through quite rural villages and bustling towns. You branch off at Nakitooma in Nakasongora after about a 115km (4-5 hours) drive. Then divert from the main road for another 7km drive to Ziwa. Alternatively, you can consider visiting Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary on Uganda safari tours to Murchison Fall or Kidepo National Park. These two parks offer more classic savannah game viewing and gorgeous sceneries in Uganda.

A Brief History Of Ziwa & Rhinos In Uganda

Historically, both black and white rhinos are indigenous to Uganda. But, due to the post-independence conflicts and poaching, these incredible African animals were declared extinct in the country in 1983. In 2005, following decades of peace and stability, Rhino Fund Uganda started the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary.

The sanctuary started as a risky project with the release of 6 adult southern white rhinos. Four were trans-located from Solio Ranch in Kenya and two from the Disney Animal Kingdom in USA. 

The first successful birth occurred in June 2009 when baby Obama was born. The baby rhino was named Obama because his father is Kenyan and his mother is American. Since then, Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary has gone from strength to strength, and the current population stands at 34 rhinos. It has now become one of the most inspiring conservation success stories in East Africa, offering amazing rhino tracking on foot.

Ziwa Rhino Tracking

Tracking rhinos in Ziwa Sanctuary is one of the most thrilling Uganda safari activities. It offers you a great chance to get close to the wonderful white rhinos than you ever could in a 4×4 safari vehicle.

Rhinos are among Africa’s Big Five land animals. They’re also the second-largest land mammals on earth today (behind only elephants), weighing up 3.5 tonnes. Distinguished by their thick skin and long nose horns, rhinos are remarkably tough and quick African animals. Their amazing horns and bulky pre-historic appearance make them instantly recognizable – but their unpredictable nature, strength, and speed are legendary.

Even the bravest of rangers will be super alert around these massive mammals. But on your Ziwa Rhino tracking in Uganda safari tours it is entirely possible to safely get close to these pre-historic-looking heavyweights on foot. Plus, when you track the Southern White Rhinos at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, you’re supporting an important conservation program for this highly threatened animals.

Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary

How Is Rhino Tracking Done?

You can choose to do rhino tracking in Ziwa at any time of the day. However, Rhinos are most active in the early morning and late afternoon or early evening. You need to time your trek with that (watching them sleep is not exciting at all). So, rhino tracking is best done between 8 am to 10 am and 4 pm to 6 pm.

Rhino Tracking in Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary starts with a short safety briefing. Then you embark on the actual tracking adventure. The rhinos are free to move around on 7000 hectares of land. 

Therefore it is often required to drive to the areas where the rhinos are, before trekking into the bush. During your trek, you follow your guide while keeping your voice low. Fortunately, the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary terrain is flat. You just have to be careful with the occasional acacia thorn.

How Long In Rhino Tracking?

Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary Rhinos-min

Rhino trekking can take from 1½ to 2½ hours. This depends on the location of the rhinos. As you trek, you also see other wildlife. The sanctuary is home to about 40 mammal species and over 300 species of birds.

When you find the rhinos, your guide whispers a few more safety instructions to you, such as stay at least 6-7 meters away, don’t use flash, and keep your voices low. Follow the instructions at all times. It’s a spine-tingling experience.

All your senses will be on the alert and every sight, sound and scent will be magnified. You’re free to walk around the area and take photos as long as you stay near the guide. Trust me, you’ll be relieved, if I haven’t said it yet, rhinos are huge (adult white rhinos can weigh more than 3 tonnes). Given their bulk, white rhinos are surprisingly quiet.

Yet at close quarters you can hear them breathe and grunt, coupled with the rhythmic sound of their grazing. If the rhinos get too close, your guide will instruct you to move back. You spend up to an hour with the rhinos before they become stressed. You then return to your car and travel back to the visitor’s center.

Is It Really Safe To Track Wild Rhinos On Foot?

Rhinos In Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary-min

Rhinos are members of African ‘Big 5’ land animals.

Other members include Lions, leopards, African elephants, and African buffalo – all of which can be seen on Uganda wildlife safaris. The term Big 5 was coined in the late 1800s during Africa’s colonial period, referring to what trophy hunters considered the most dangerous animals to hunt on foot.

So you might be wondering – is it really safe to get to the 3000kg fully grown wild rhino on foot! The answer is yes. It is extremely unlikely that anything bad will happen to you on your rhino tracking adventure in Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. You need to follow your ranger guide’s instructions.

Please remember that these are wild rhinos, even if they are living in a fenced area. The premise of tracking wild rhinos on foot in Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is dependent on the fact that these massive mammals have very poor eyesight. So the aim is to keep you out of their vision the entire time. They could still be able to hear you – but because most of these rhinos have no memories of being threatened by humans, that won’t alarm them.

More Tips On How To Stay Safe During Rhino Tracking

Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary

During your Ziwa Rhino Tracking adventure, it is important to stay at least 6-7 meters away from rhinos.

You are also advised to follow your ranger guide’s instructions when they advise you to move away from the rhinos. Moreover, you must not make any sudden movements, speak above a whisper, or use your camera’s flash. White rhinos are less aggressive than their cousins, black rhinos.

They only charge if they’re surprised and they usually give up quickly. If that happens, you should climb a tree or hide behind a bush. Be extremely cautious if you come across a baby rhino or a pregnant mother.

Never put yourself in the way of a mother rhino and her calf. Another thing to note is that your safety depends on the actions of those in your tracking group. You’ll all be in danger if you’re all crouching behind a bush and one person suddenly raises his head for a quick selfie.

As a result, it’s critical to ask your fellow trekkers to follow the guide’s advice. And as noted above, before you go on the journey, your guide will give you a thorough safety briefing. And as long as you pay attention to them, you shouldn’t have any troubles on your Rhino tracking tour in Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary of Uganda.

Ziwa Rhino Tracking Fees 2024

Rhino tracking in Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, like other Uganda safari activities, is reasonably priced. The table below shows the Ziwa Rhino Tracking costs inclusive of the sanctuary entrance fees per visitor category:

  • Foreign Non-Resident (Adult) – USD $50
  • Foreign Non-Resident (Child) – USD $25
  • Foreign Residents (Adult) – USD $40
  • Foreign Residents (child) – USD $20
  • East African Citizens (Adult) – UGX 30,000
  • East African Citizens (child) – UGX 10,000

Best Time For Ziwa Rhino Tracking

The best time to go rhino tracking in Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is during the dry seasons of December to February and June to October. This is also the best time to visit other Uganda safari destinations for general wildlife game viewing. Rain has a lower likelihood of ruining your planned safari activities or things to do during the dry season.More important than the time of year, though, is the time of day. 

Rhinos are most active in the mornings and late in the afternoons. So you want to plan your journey around that (seeing them sleep isn’t nearly as fun). When you arrive, you may talk to the rangers about whether it’s worth it to undertake the hike in the middle of the day.

More Activities To Do At Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary

1. Shoebill Trek & Canoe Ride

Uganda adventure safaris

The incredible shoebill is one of the most sought after birds in Uganda. Within the swamps of Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, these prehistoric-looking birds are nesting. An early morning (6 am) shoebill trek and canoe ride through the swamp not only gives you the opportunity to find the shoebill, but also to see the beautiful Ugandan sunrise. Other water birds are also plentiful.

2. Birding Walk

If you are planning a bird watching tour in Uganda, Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary contains more than 300 species of birds! The sanctuary has 4 bird watching trails. The trails cover woodlands, swamp and savannah. The bird guides are excellent. You will probably get to see some of the other game on the sanctuary while doing your bird walk.

3. Nature Walk

Additionally, you can do a nature walk in Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. The sanctuary is also home to at least 40 animals species, including monkeys, Uganda kobs, bushbucks, waterbucks, and Nile Crocodiles.

Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary Accommodation

After enjoying your time with the Rhinos, you enjoy your overnight stay in the Amuka safari lodge that offers comfortable accommodation, an on-site restaurant that serves mouth-watering dishes and has a swimming pool for tourists who wish to just relax. There are also self-contained luxury tents where tourists can relax and spend an overnight. Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary also offers visitors the option to camp overnight, with the skilled and armed guides nearby staying up all night for your safety and protection.