A brighter future: day 3 of a Children in the Wilderness camp

I awoke to the smoky smell of Maltabella oats, and had to look around some to see that I wasn’t on a boarding school camp in the Drakensberg.

After a few helpings, sitting out on the damp deck (the rain must have come again in the night), Brett presented another angle on the circle of life, representing various species with cups that were stacked on top of each other in pyramid form. He got a few sleepy volunteers to come and take certain cups out of the tower, and children laughed amused at the crumbling tower, which illustrated the effects of no “grass” on “grazers” or that of no “decomposed wood” on “insects” for example. It was an entertaining start to the day for the kids, but they had been left with a valuable lesson.

Children in the wilderness kruger national park

Tlangelani is about to find out what happens when one plays with the ecosystem Photo © Andy Wassung

Later on, SANParks anti-poaching rangers came to talk about the increasing rhino poaching in the park and their roles in trying to prevent this tragedy which is taking place, unbeknown to the children, on their doorstep. It was encouraging to see that many of them couldn’t fathom the sheer severity of the situation; that so many rhinos have been killed just for their horns.

There were many questions voiced as to how and why this was taking place. Personally, this took an issue which plagues many of us adults in an economic, social, and moral capacity every day, and showed just how simply illogical this massacre seems to our bright-eyed leaders of tomorrow. It is with immense hope that I wish them the best in avoiding the terrible paths that current world and regional leaders have left in their wakes. I was humbled by a grave silence that took over the room when the talk finished.

Fittingly, the rhino talk gave way to a bit of fresh air aboard a game drive themed ‘what belongs in nature’. Teams had to find a host of things that do and don’t belong in the bush. They identified alien plants, bird feathers and bits of rubbish, dividing the good from the bad, later discarding the latter. I went out with head guide, Enos and his team and was introduced to the largest known baobab in the Kruger. We also took a trip to the Limpopo River, which divides Zimbabwe and South Africa before entering Mozambique at Crook’s Corner.

After a hearty balanced meal for supper (which was in strict keeping with Jacqui’s nutrition talk yesterday), laughs, songs and ‘Super Camper’ awards were shared, before Brian brought proceedings to a scattered halt when he crept around the deck to play a recording of a lion roaring. Everyone seemed rather tired after a very warm day and so it’s quite an early one tonight. The wood owls have evaded my spotlight again tonight but they are most certainly still there, flapping about every so often. Now as I write, a hippo is making tracks up the bank, munching its way to within three metres of my tent.

The bugs are out in full force after the rains. This not only made for great sightings of very content and fat-bellied lesser spotted eagles and flycatchers, but has turned my tent into a feeding frenzy too; except I seem to be the prey. It’s also very very warm, so please excuse me while I go back to my cool spot in front of the fan and watch the hippo drawing ever nearer. I hope he’ll move over to the next tent to give the kids a bit of a bedtime show!

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Andy Wassung

I have grown up living in some of Southern Africa’s most beautiful places; from Cape Town, where I was born, and sandy Arniston Bay, to the shores of the great Zambezi, the pristine Okavango, and starry Namibia, with a stopover in Jo’burg for a few big city years, finding solace at boarding school in the hills of KwaZulu Natal. After a year of making beds and cleaning toilets in Scotland, scoffing one pound noodles on the streets of London, Swiss skiing, and Thai island-hopping, I set my sights on Rhodes University. There I finished a Bachelor of Journalism & Media Studies while blissfully and barefootedly dwelling in the revelry of small town living and learning to navigate the local Pick n Pay with my eyes closed. I have a deep love for this extraordinary country & the African continent, her people and her beautiful, fragile wilderness. Follow me on Twitter .

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