Its 3am! I have just awoken to a thud on the floorboards below me. Listening carefully, I tiptoe to the mosquito gauze and press my face against it.
I see a bit of movement 2 metres away, then there’s another thud against the deck. The moonlight is just enough to catch a pair of horns, locked, and a streak of white on the beasts back: Nyala bulls having a showdown. Just yesterday we were chatting about how Nyalas will fight for hours, butting horns violently, often until one dies from sheer exhaustion. Getting back to sleep is tough even though the duel has moved off to Tent 6. Now the night is alive and well with hyenas, a giant eagle owl and a couple of thicktailed bushbabies bantering across the river. Some baboons are also getting defensive; the male is growling.
I awake later to the realisation that I am leaving today, and also to the melodic ascending and descending notes of one of my favourites: the Heuglins Robin (Whitebrowed Robin Chat). For three years growing up on the Zambezi, this was my daily alarm, and now it marks the end of ‘Children in the Wilderness’ for me. I hope the kids in the next tent have been impacted as significantly as I have by this camp, and by the wilderness it takes place in.
It was tough to leave after breakfast. To do it justice, goodbyes needed to be given to each member of staff and each child individually. Some of them tugged on my shirt, others smiled, and a few walked us to the car park, despite our instructions to return to camp as their porridge was getting cold.
Driving out, past the Baobabs and Fever Trees of the Northern Kruger, I think about the last few days and the joy I got out of them. They felt full, lengthy, and meaningful.
All my thanks must go to Chris Roche and Janet Wilkinson at Wilderness Safaris, and all the staff and children from ‘Children in the Wilderness’ Pafuri for the opportunity and privilege of being involved in such an enriching project.
Wilderness Safaris and Children in the Wilderness still continue to have an impact in the communities around which they operate after the children have left the camp. In this case, Eco Clubs are set up and run in the schools in the Makuleke community, giving Wilderness Safaris a chance to engage with the kids in their usual environment; to keep in touch with those who have been on camp, and to extend the message of conservation to those who have not in fun and interactive ways. In May 2012, the theme “Be Cool, Don’t Litter” sets the stage for the children to write a short story, a poem, or a rap song on this theme. Later in the year for Arbour Week, the Eco Clubs will be making compost to use when they plant trees at their schools.