Rhino Charge

Rhino Charge 2024 - 1st June 2024

  • 00Days
  • 00Hours
  • 00Minutes
  • 00Seconds

How it began

The Rhino Charge was conceived in Nairobi, Kenya when Rhino Ark founder Ken Kuhle asked Rally Enthusiast Rob Coombes whether he would organise an off-road 4×4 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 off-roading 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 the 4th 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 off-road 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.


Ken Kuhle

The late Ken Kuhle was the founder of Rhino Ark, and a visionary who envisaged a practical solution to the poaching crisis facing the elephant and black rhino populations in the Aberdare Ecosystem. The 1980’s were dark period in Kenya’s conservation history, when wildlife and water catchment forests were under critical threat. At this time the Aberdares were experiencing serious poaching of elephant and black rhino as well as escalating human-wildlife conflict. Particularly affected was the easternmost area of the Aberdare National Park in Nyeri district, an area known as the Salient.


Ken was at the forefront of a body of opinion determined to tackle the threats to the Aberdares, and in 1988 he formed the Rhino Ark for this purpose. He came up with a novel idea to build an electric fence along the Salient, which would serve the dual purpose of keeping poachers out while keeping the wildlife in. His background in engineering, coupled with his skills in farming and passion for conservation positioned him well to ensure that the design for the fence would achieve its objectives.


After the concept of the fence had taken root, the next challenge he faced was mobilizing funding. In discussions with members of the local rally driving fraternity, a unique idea was mooted: an off-road driving competition. A team comprising rallying experts and enthusiasts came together to develop the concept of the Rhino Charge, an event to raise funds for construction of the fence. At the core of this team were Brian Haworth and the late Rob Combes. Their experience and dedication made it possible for the event concept to become a reality, and in 1989, the first Rhino Charge event was held. Over 20 years later, the fruits of their efforts continue to be seen.


For over a decade, until June 2000, Ken continued to steer Rhino Ark from strength to strength, ensuring that the Rhino Charge evolved into a unique, competitive and highly regarded event. Ken passed on in 2005.


Rob Combes

The late Rob Combes was a man of many talents and interests as varied as motorsport, music, theatre and environmental conservation.


Rob is credited with much of the original conceptualisation of the Rhino Charge as a competitive off-road 4×4 event. His involvement in motorsport, particularly in the local rallying scene was recognised, and he was a past winner of the prestigious Kenyan ‘Motorsportsman of the Year Award’. His solid background in motorsport and his passion for conservation were an invaluable asset to the team that conceived the Rhino Charge concept and steered it to realisation.


Rob was the first Clerk of the Course for the Rhino Charge, a role he carried out diligently every year since its inception in 1989 until his tragic death in a motor vehicle accident in 1993.