Another blogger, originalribenababy, commented that we were “Very very very lucky to see a rhino in Tanzania! Wow.” She’s traveled to Tanzania and just posted her Uganda gorilla tracking experience. She’s right. Finding a black rhino is difficult — there are only six in Ngorongoro Crater. The Crater is large, and vehicles must stay on the roads. Her comment brought to mind our search for the black rhino.
Shortly after breakfast in Ngorongoro Crater, our guide pulled to the side of the road, stood up to see out the roof hatch, and stared intently through his binoculars.
“There’s a black rhino!” he finally declared.
“See the zebra to the right of the trees? Line up with the zebra; then look beyond the zebra.”
At first I couldn’t find the zebra, much less the rhino beyond it. With much help, I finally saw a dark object in the distance beyond the zebra.
“How do you know that’s a black rhino?”
“From the horn sticking up!”
We peered through our binoculars, looking for the horn. Some times we could see a horn, and other times not. I snapped some pictures. Our guide radioed the other two cars, and they came and looked. The nine people in the cars couldn’t spot the black rhino. To be fair, the zebra landmark had probably moved on.
Our guide asked “Did I show you a black rhino?” There was pressure on him to show us a black rhino.
“Well, we might have seen a horn sticking up, but the other guides didn’t see it. We’ll give you half a black rhino.”
Were we too hard on our guide, or too easy, on that day in Ngorongoro?
Here’s a photo of the black rhino, taken with a 400 mm lens on a Canon 40D, handheld on a warm, summer day. With the camera configuration, the lens has an effective length of 640 mm. A long telephoto lens, and this is all you get.
See the black blob to the left of the two zebras? With a horn sticking up on the right? This is about what I saw through the camera viewfinder. Could we tell the folks at home “Oh yeah, we saw a black rhino.” wink, wink.
The original photo has more resolution than the ‘black rhino?’ image. ‘black rhino (cropped)’ is cropped from the original photo, showing the resolution of the original photo. Two zebras are easy to identify. Is that a rhino next to them?
But I didn’t review this photo at full resolution that day in the Crater. The count remained at a half a black rhino. The pressure was still on our guide to show us a black rhino.
In the late afternoon, as we were racing for the exit road to avoid a huge fine for overstaying our visit to the Crater, we saw a black rhino ambling along. Here’s the photo, again at 400 mm.
Looks like a rhino. The image below shows the higher resolution of the original photo. Now the rhino is more clear. Rhinos are kind of cute, in their own way!
We told our guide we’d count one black rhino. He smiled broadly. The pressure was off, until the next day on safari in Africa.