Wednesday
Oct092013

Epic Road Launches Signature Rhino Conservation Safari 

Have you ever dreamed of meeting a Rhino?  Witnessing first hand their quiet lives of grazing, mud-bathing and secret late-night social gatherings by the waterhole.  This is how full-grown rhinos live in the wild: untouched and undisturbed, with no natural predators – except humans.

The rhino population has fallen over 96% in just half a century, and little of this decline is due to disease or change in natural habitat.   Today, the vast majority of rhinos are poached due to voracious global demand for their horns, which in China and other parts of Asia are erroneously believed to hold healing properties.   To combat this notion, and to raise global awareness around the issue of rhino poaching, Epic Road has partnered with organizations like South Africa’s Kwandwe Private Game Reserve to create signature travel experiences around anti-poaching efforts, including offering clients the once-in-a-lifetime chance to help track and microchip rhinos in the wild—a surefire way to prosecute poachers and protect wild rhinos.  

Microchips are not tracking devices, but rather serial numbers that can immediately tell global law enforcement agencies the exact origin of a horn.   Anti-poaching teams like those at Kwandwe patrol thousands of miles of African wilderness in search of would-be poachers, and combine monitoring, a top security unit, and DNA banking to ensure the best rhino protection possible. 

Epic Road participates by giving passionate travelers a rare opportunity to help directly preserve an endangered species by arranging for clients to accompany specialist ranger teams on dart-and-microchip missions.  These exhilarating trips begin with sedation of the rhino, by helicopter, for safety.  Afterwards, participants join the team on the ground and help in administering medication, taking measurements for scientific and medical purposes, performing a DNA test and monitoring the animal while still sedated.  They help drill small holes in the horns in order to insert the microchips, attach a tracking anklet and perform ear-notching procedures for future identification. Afterwards, guests can enjoy a breathtaking aerial exploration of the reserve by helicopter—where they will witness the newly microchippled rhino run off unharmed, yet protected. 

Epic Road client Amanda Manchia recently traveled to Kwandwe, along with Epic Road co-founder Mark Lakin, where they joined in on tracking a rhino calf and his two ton mother.

“It was a really cold morning on safari--winter in the Eastern Cape,’” says Lakin. “When the rhino went down, Amanda and I were there to help. It’s a very hands-on experience. I was able to feel the difference between the soft underbelly of the rhino and the hard outer layer. I felt the pads on his feet; the hair on his ears and face. I was so chilly at a certain point that I huddled myself in between the calf’s stomach and front legs, and drew heat from his body.”

Manchia describes the feeling as singularly moving, and unexpectedly emotional. “It was an incredibly special feeling to be that close to a prehistoric beast and to feel so safe. You have feelings of care and empathy, and a newfound understanding of why this species needs to survive.  This was a transformative and thrilling experience that was both exciting and inspiring for me."

Epic Road offers this signature activity at several different game reserves.  Prices for a personalized Rhino Microchipping experience start around US$2300 per person, and can be incorporated as an add on to custom-designed itineraries that include traditional safari activities.  Watch a video here of a Microchipping in action, and hear more from Mark and Amanda on this incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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