Race for Rhino’s 2017

Day 12 28/06/17

We couldn’t have asked for a more epic entrance to the Race for Rhino’s. As we cruised up across the salt pans that reflected a beautiful pink-red colour we entered the main area of the event when suddenly an awakening sound hissed over us shaking the whole Tuk Tuk. This plane flew so low directly over us it gave us goose bumps, not for fear but for excitement.

Straight of the bat, the event we had been longing for started with a bang. We met the generous race organizers that sorted us out for a place to pitch our tent and supplied us with food vouchers for the four days we were attending. Pitching our tent, we got right into things offering a helping hand and exploring the venue as we saw this event come to life. ‘Sua City’ as it was labelled, was a fantastic place to host such a prestigious event. The pans were filled with water and we could only imagine the beauty that the pilots experienced descending into this area, not often filled with water.

Day 13 29/06/17

Pilots and planes began to arrive just before 11am and we began to see the various aeroplanes that would be participating in the event, and may I say, those planes are a separate beauty in themselves. This was a record number of participants amounting 76 planes so it was a great turn out for the event that is dedicated for the Rhino. One plane that really stood out was an old plane that apparently originated from Siberia and took them over 60 days just to fly to Botswana. Now that is an expedition and where they would have stayed and places they saw must have been incredible.

As everything unfolded and people started running around the venue the festivities really began and it was fantastic to meet all the participants of which many we knew quite well. We felt extremely privileged to be a part of such an event and witness all these planes flying in. As the sun began to descend, a few pilots hit the skies and performed some serious acrobatics that had the crowd in awe. These guys flew low over the temporary structures, hooning over the water and performing vertical corkscrew movements that made most spectators rotate in their seats.

Day 14 30/06/17

On this day, we decided to move campsite down to the far end where the view was drastically improved and where we found ourselves posted right next to the Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) people. Not even 100m down the road from us was the president of Botswana, his Excellency Sir Seretse Khama Ian Khama who cruised past us on numerous occasions in both his chopper and  quad bikes smiling away with a number of BDF soldiers tailing him just as happy.

After meeting our B.T.O neighbour Thabang who was a good laugh we made our way to the main gathering area where we proceeded to meet with people and arrange interviews in an attempt to further promote our cause. We were interviewed by a few photographers as well as the BTO media crew which gave us some pretty good exposure. Some more air stunts ensued with guys skimming the water as it passed right in front of the food tent where we looked on with respect as the fine line between that going to plan and dipping a bit too low ending up in the water must be in the centimetres. That massive old plane from Siberia did some skimming for the crowd on the last day which was  an epic site from where we were standing as he descended onto the water and looked like it dipped its wheels a bit too low. It seemed to be fighting the water as its engine roared to pull itself out. We were standing on the water’s edge next to our campsite so the beaut of a plane was flying directly towards us as we noticed it started to drift to the left a bit. It was a very thrilling site to see as we had trust that the pilot knew what he was doing but it looked awfully close to an untrained eye, that he might end up either in the tents or the water.  As he neared closer and closer to us he gave the engine a mighty thrust and began to rise up out of the water, over the tents and directly over us where we were standing completely taken away by such the fantastic site we just witnessed.

Day 15 1/7/17

This day marked the start of the second day of the race where the order was reversed so that the slower planes went first, followed by the faster planes in an attempt to have them all finish at relatively the same time. Pilots still high in spirits, began their ascents and left us ground folk aching to get a ride in one of these planes. Instead, we took this time to meet more people and spread the word about what we are doing and what we are raising awareness and funds for.

Just after lunch, buses pulled up to take people to the Rhino relocation that was happening near the entrance gate to this section of Sua Pan. We had no intention of missing such a good opportunity to see first-hand some of the work that is being done by the hard-working conservationists in Botswana, so we got the beast running and trailed behind the buses at lightning speed. Two crane trucks were parked either side of the four transportation units holding the Rhino and one by one they began to release each animal. Being unwise to stand in front of the release units because of the obvious safety hazard, we were forced to remain behind of the relocation equipment and only got a couple of glimpse of the Rhinos as they scurried around absorbing and exploring their new surroundings.  Despite the best view it was still fantastic to witness such a site live and we felt extremely privileged that we got to experience this.

The race was now over with race number 23 claiming the victory so the final night of festivities commenced as people gathered under tent. The beers flowed, good times and banter ensued so needless to say the final night of Race for Rhino’s ended with a bang.