The Rhino Charge is a yearly off-road competition hosted in Kenya where competitors must reach a number of checkpoints also known as Guard Posts while going the lowest distance obtainable across challenging, trackless terrain, with speed being penalised. The event is being held to collect money to help the charitable trust Rhino Ark’s operations.
The History of Rhino Charge
The idea for the event came about in 1989 in order to raise money for the building of the Aberdare National Park Electric Fence. Ken Kuhle, the founder of Rhino Ark, suggested holding an off-road race to raise money for the fencing project being carried out by the recently formed Charitable Trust Rhino Ark, along with rally enthusiasts Rob Combes and Brian Haworth. The Trust was dedicated to preserving the declining Rhino number in the Aberdare National Park and reducing conflicts between people and wildlife in the area. The first competition, which took place on February 4th, 1989, had 31 competing vehicles and was won by Travers Allison driving a Suzuki jeep. While the initial Rhino Charge only raised KES 250,000, it has grown significantly over time to surpass KES 90 million by the year 2013 event.
In Nairobi, Kenya, the founder of Rhino Ark, Ken Kuhle, initially had the idea for the Rhino Charge when he asked rally fanatic Rob Coombes if he would organise a motorsport event to raise money for the recently founded Rhino Ark Kenya Charitable Trust. The trust made it a priority to control the declining rhino population in the Aberdare National Park.
The idea under discussion was to host an off-road race, with the winner taking their car to Mount Kenya’s highest point. Brian Haworth was thrilled and volunteered to help Rob organise it once Rob first brought up the idea to him. The idea was reworked after presentations to the Kenya Wildlife Service revealed that permission to stage the event on Mount Kenya would not be obtained. At the request of Derek Gates (the promoter of the Safari Rally), Brian had previously scouted a route within Mount Longonot to host an off-road competition. It was never held since they chose to conduct a smaller celebration at Hell’s Gate National Park in its place. Brian’s idea, which would serve as the foundation for the Rhino Charge, was to use distance as the determining factor rather than speed.
Rob and Brian made the decision to attempt a competition to drive over Mount Suswa in the Rift Valley based on their previous experience and much discussion. The person who completed the course in the least amount of time would win. There would be two controls located on both sides of the volcano. The two set out on motorbikes on a Sunday morning in early 1989 in search of Mount Suswa’s southern slopes. The plan wasn’t going to work after a tiring day spent primarily “carrying” bikes, and with Mount Suswa still only halfway up, they had to return to base. They sat and observed the Suswa plains, Lake Magadi in the far away distance, a few minor hills, and a number of sizable luggas in the background. Why not place controls at the peak of each hill and the base of the escarpment? To get to the slopes, the contestants would have to navigate the dry river banks. They spent two days driving and riding throughout the area the next weekend, equipped with camping materials, motorcycles, and their families, laying out the area that would eventually serve as the site of the first-ever Rhino Charge. Travers Allison, driving a Suzuki Jeep, took first place in the race on February 4, 1989, which included 31 competing vehicles. The normal odometer of the car was used to calculate distance. These early settlers are likely that they had no notion of the enormous attention that this modest event would draw in the decades to come.
The Rhino Charge is an a single day off-road competition in which a maximum of 65 racers must stop at 13 control sites spread out over around 100 square kilometres of challenging terrain in the course of ten hours. Each participating team chooses the path they want to take after receiving a map of the venue at a scale of 1:50,000 and the GPS location of the 13 control points. The contestant who travels the shortest distance (as determined by a GPS) between his starting location and the control point where he left off is declared the winner.
How it is organised
A committee of qualified volunteers from diverse fields organises the Rhino Charge. Each person on this devoted team contributes their time, knowledge, and materials to make sure the event is successfully held and up to the highest quality. Each year, a new location in one of Kenya’s wildest and most isolated regions serves as the site for the event. Choosing a suitable location is the first step in planning, which is then followed by talks with local residents and the organisation of the event itself. Each tournament site is created with the full involvement of local community individuals and with an awareness of regional considerations. The Rhino Charge Team donates their time and dedication to go on reconnaissance trips for the next event during the lengthy process, which lasts many months.
Each year, the event, which is sponsored by guard post sponsors, event sponsors, and raffle contributors, takes place around the Kenyan public holiday Madaraka Day and is free to attend as long as you abide by the rules and regulations established by the organising committee. The venue of the event is kept a secret by the Committee until the real day of the event. People are discouraged from trying to peek at the place in advance thanks to the location’s confidentiality.
The Kenya Wildlife Service, the local District Commissioner, the Governing Body of Motorsport in Kenya, and the landowners who are the host community are all the ones who organise the event.
Rhino charge spectators
The Rhino Charge draws lots of onlookers who come to have a pleasant weekend away from town while seeing competitors in action. Since 2015, attendees must register for the event’s ticketing page in order to buy a ticket, accommodation, and a car pass. In general, spectators must pay the “Land Access Fee” (LAF) in order to enter the event location two days prior to the event day and must have purchased a ticket, lodging, and vehicle pass unless they are riding in another person’s vehicle. The Vehicle Pass provides funding for particular host community projects. On the day of the event, nobody is allowed entrance to the venue.
Rhino charge Entrance fees
All vehicles entering the site must have four-wheel drive, and there are the following admission fees should be paid as follows; Kshs 10,000 for vehicles with fewer than six seats. 20,000 Kenyan Shillings for vehicles with 6–12 seats and 30,000 Ksh for vehicles with 13 or more seats per vehicle
Whether they are attending independently or by a camp operator, the audience have to bring their own food and camping supplies.
Requirements to participate
The organisers restrict the number of contenders at 65 cars in an effort of protecting the environment in addition to the complexity of the terrain to be covered. Until the limit is reached, entries are accepted under the stringent rule of First Come – First Served in the following categories:
- All entries from the previous Rhino Charge who raised more than KES 2 million shillings are offered automatic entry and they must confirm their acceptance before the first of July of each year.
- Between July 1 and July 31, participants must pledge at least 1.5 million Kenya shillings.
- Between August 1 and August 30, participants must pledge at least 1.25 million shillings to be considered.
- Applicants who pledge a minimum of 1 million Kenya shillings between September 2, and September 30, are eligible to enter.
- Starting on October 1, 2013, participants must pledge at least 750,000 Kenya shillings.
Any participants who enrolled in categories above but did not get their promised sponsorship may be barred from starting, and they may also be denied admission to subsequent events.