When it comes to experiencing something that truly changes the game, you cannot go past what Kapama Private Game Reserve offers.
Rhino poaching in South Africa is sadly still a thriving business and if it continues at this rate, the species may be extinct within 10 to 20 years. But with an increase in conservation efforts across the country, there is hope.
Different nature reserves across the country have put in place various ways to help curb the poaching of these beautiful creatures including strict patrols and dehorning - however, Kapama do things a little differently.
At Kapama they implement rhino notching. Rhino notching involves placing a microchip into the horn so it can be tracked, and if poaching occurs, can help apprehend the offender as the microchip makes it identifiable in terms of what area it came from.
Guests who stay at Kapama get the opportunity to gain an insight into this process and join the team as they tranquilise and notch a rhino that hasn't been done yet.
The Kapama team searching for un-notched rhinos
The rhino notching day starts early to avoid the heat of the sun so the rhinos don't burn up once the process starts.
The team consists of various rangers to assist, the veterinarian, Dr Peter Rogers, and his assistant Janelle. Dr Rogers watches from a helicopter until an un-notched rhino is spotted and once in his sights, he shoots it with a tranquilising dart and it's game on.
The rhino takes a few minutes before it falls and as soon as that happens everyone, including you, springs into action. Firstly, the rhino has to be laying on it's side with it's legs clear of it's body. If the rhino, which is pretty heavy to say the least, lays on it's leg for too long it can result in injury. So, if needed, you'll have to help the team push the rhino over - which is no easy feat!
Adding to the pressure is the fact that you can't keep the rhino under anaesthetic safely for too long - everyone springs into action. Blindfold placed, eye drops applied, a hair taken from the tail, ear notched to signify it's been chipped, tranquiliser dart wound tended to and of course the chip inserted into the horn.
The entire process is done within minutes and everyone scatters back to the vehicles while the blindfold is removed and the rhino is a bit disoriented for awhile.
The whole experience is extremely unique, not only because you get to be in such close proximity with a 1500kg animal, but also because you're taking part in an important step to conserving the species.