The Rhino Charge was conceived on the verandah of the Members Bar at Muthaiga Country Club in the leafy suburbs of Nairobi. Rhino Ark founder Ken Kuhle asked Rally Enthusiast Rob Combes whether he would organise a motorsport event to help raise funds for the “Rhino Ark Charitable Trust” that he had formed to save the Aberdare National Park’s dwindling rhino population.
Since then, in April every year, “Rhino Charge fever” hits the motorsport enthusiasts. Wherever they are found, their cars are being prepared in garages, tested on and off the road. They throng shops for camping equipment, and the standard “where are we going this time?” is heard everywhere given that the organizers keep the venue secret to avoid undue advantage to some competitors! Then, on the eve of the Madaraka Day weekend, the exodus begins.
Motorsport enthusiasts, spectators and officials in their thousands head for the hills and gullies for another “Rhino Charge”.
At the core of the Rhino Charge is a highly dedicated group of individuals that comprise the Rhino Charge Committee. Some pioneer members of this committee include Rob Combes, Gavin Bennett, Pierre Parsons, Philip Hechle and Ken Kuhle, among others. Since the first Charge in Suswa in Kajiado on February 4, 1989 which raised Sh250,000 from 31 competing vehicles, many of the original committee members are still deeply involved in the Charge.
Rob and Ken are no longer alive, while Brian Haworth left Rhino Charge Organising Committee but remains a trustee of the Rhino Ark Trust. Rob was the first Clerk of the Course for the Rhino Charge, a role he carried out diligently every year since its inception until his tragic death in a motor vehicle accident in 1993.
The Rhino Charge pioneers’ legacy is a concept that has developed into one of the world’s toughest off-road events and attracted international entrants for a noble cause: Conservation of Kenya’s forested mountains.