A Guide To The Rhino Charge
Rhino Charge unique off-road car rally is held annually in June to raise money for the construction of a perimeter fence around the Aberdare National Park. This park is a sanctuary for the endangered Black Rhino and an important water catchment area providing water to the Tana and Athi rivers.
The Rhino Charge is an annual off-road motorsport competition held in Kenya in which entrants are be required to visit a number of points (Guard Posts) while travelling the shortest possible distance across difficult, trackless terrain, where speed is not a necessity. The event is organised in order to raise funds to support the activities of the Charitable Trust Rhino Ark.
The event was conceived in 1989 to raise funds for the construction of the Aberdare Electric Fence. Rhino Ark founder Ken Kuhle, Rally Enthusiasts Rob Combes and Brian Haworth mooted the idea of an off-road motorsport event to support the fencing project carried out by the recently established Charitable Trust Rhino Ark. The Trust was committed to saving the dwindling Rhino population in the Aberdare National Park, as well as mitigating human-wildlife conflicts around the National Park. On 4 February 1989, 31 competing vehicles entered the first event which was won by Travers Allison in a Suzuki jeep. Whilst the first Rhino Charge raised only KES 250,000, this amount increased tremendously over the years to reach over KES 90 million in the 2013 event
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Vision, Mission and Values
Rhino Charge 1994 Model ‘A’ Ford – oldest ever vehicle in Rhino Charge
The vision of Rhino Charge is to mobilize the public to raise funds for Rhino Ark, the Kenyan conservation charity. For over 25 years Rhino Ark has been raising funds for the building and maintenance of an electrified fence that encircles nearly 400 km of the Aberdare ecosystem. The fence is a vital management tool for ensuring the ecosystem’s long-term integrity. In 2010 Rhino Ark announced a formal commitment to support conservation of other mountain forest ecosystems in Kenya, starting with Mount Kenya and Mount Mau Eburu. These new initiatives are undertaken in addition to the long term commitment to the Aberdares.
The mission of Rhino Charge is to organize an annual off-road motorsport competition that consistently meets the highest standards of excellence and does not adversely impact on the environment in which the events take place.
The values of Rhino Charge are Sportsmanship, Integrity and Commitment to Excellence.
Rhino Charge 1998 Phil Tilley and Crew wait anxiously for the start
The Rhino Charge was conceived in Nairobi, Kenya when Rhino Ark founder Ken Kuhle asked Rally Enthusiast Rob Coombes whether he would organise a motorsport event to help raise funds for the Rhino Ark Charitable Trust that he had recently formed. The trust was committed to saving the dwindling Rhino population in the Aberdare National Park.
The concept discussed was to hold an offroading competition whereby the winner would drive a vehicle to the highest altitude on Mount Kenya. Rob then discussed the idea with Brian Haworth who was enthusiastic and agreed to join Rob in organising it. Presentations to Kenya Wildlife Service quickly determined that the permission to hold the event on Mount Kenya would not be granted and the concept went back to the drawing board. Some years prior to this, Brian had recced a route around Mount Longonot for an off road event at the request of Derek Gates (Safari Rally organiser). It never took place as they decided to hold a mini event at Hell’s Gate National Park instead. Brian’s concept was to use distance, rather than speed as the deciding factor, this was to prove the basis for what would become the Rhino Charge.
Based on this experience and after much discussion, Rob and Brian decided to attempt an event to drive over Mount Suswa in the Rift Valley. Two controls would be sited on either side of the Volcano and whoever did it in the shortest distance would be the winner. One Sunday morning in early 1989 the two set off, with motor bikes, headed for the southern slopes of Mount Suswa. After an exhausting day mostly “carrying” the bikes, and still only half way up Suswa they had to head back to base, the idea wasn’t going to work! They sat looking across the Suswa plains with Lake Magadi in the distance, several small hills and large luggas in the foreground. Why not put a control on the top of each hill and one at the bottom of the escarpment? The competitors would have to find their way across the luggas to get to the hills! The following weekend, prepared with camping gear, motor bikes and their families, they spent two days driving and riding around the area setting out what eventually became the venue for the first ever Rhino Charge. The rest, as they say is history…
31 competing vehicles entered 4 February 1989 event won by Travers Allison in a Suzuki Jeep. Distance was measured with the vehicle’s standard odometer. These pioneers probably had no idea of the huge interest this small event would attract in the years to come.
At the core of the Rhino Charge is a highly dedicated group of individuals that comprise the Rhino Charge Committee. Over 25 years later, many of the original committee members are still deeply involved in the Charge.
Rob and Ken are no longer with us, while Brian is still assisting the preparation of the Rhino Charge in many ways. Their legacy is a concept that has developed into the toughest offroad event on the continent and possibly anywhere. It has gained international acclaim and attracts entries from all over the world. The Kudos of winning the Rhino Charge is highly coveted in Kenya and elsewhere. Few Kenyans are not touched by the event in some way, whether taking part, being involved in the organisation, or digging into their pockets for sponsorship. By April every year, the Rhino Charge Fever hits Kenya. Wherever you go, cars are being prepared in garages, tested on and off the road. Shops are full of camping equipment, and the words “where are we going this time?” are heard everywhere. Then, on the Madaraka Day weekend, the exodus begins, and thousands of enthusiasts head for the hills for another Rhino Charge.
Rhino Charge 2006 spectator numbers are getting bigger every year
The Rhino Charge is a one-day off-road event during which a maximum of 65 competitors are required to visit 13 control points scattered over approximately 100 square kilometres of rough terrain within a 10 hours period. Supplied with a 1:50,000 scale map of the venue and the GPS coordinates of the 13 control points, each competing team decides the route they want to follow. The winner is the competitor who finishes at the control point where he started having visited all the other control points in the shortest distance (GPS measured).
The Charge is a unique and exciting competition that requires bravery and a high level of skill in off-road driving and navigation. To prevent adverse environmental impacts, entries to the event are limited to 65 vehicles. The popularity of the Charge is such that the organisers have introduced a preferential entry strategy favouring high value fund raisers because would be entrants far exceed available places in the even
Rhino Charge Contacts
Attraction Type: Special Interest
Category: Special Event
Region: Mt. Kenya
City / Town: Isiolo
Telephone: 254 733 632460
254 20 213 6011
254 724 604233
Entrance Fee: Yes