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A Brighter Future: day 4 of a Children in the Wilderness camp

There can be no better place to experience the morning than in the bush. The world outside cannot reach you; the hooting of traffic and the anxiety of the day are not welcome here. Here on the banks of the Luvuvhu River, the sun greets the resident buffalo who sneezes a golden dust cloud. Young impalas admire their coats in the still water for a brief moment before frightening at the harsh warning of a Forktailed Drongo. And on the deck at Pafuri, children, tummies full with porridge, draw and write in their ‘Children in the Wilderness’ activity books.

Children in the Wilderness

Making dreamcatchers: ‘No dreamer is ever too small, no dream is ever too big.’ – Anonymous Photo © Andy Wassung

After quiet book time, Godfrey (another Pafuri guide) gave a talk on careers and how they should not be driven by money, but rather by ones passions and interests. This goes against the normal career advice that we seem to be given in the ‘west’, or a capitalist society, where one is constantly driven towards ‘success’ as defined financially. Brian added to Godfrey’s talk by showing different types of characters and how attitude leads to returns. A ‘type A’ person will sulk because it’s raining outside whereas a ‘type B’ person will go out with an umbrella.

After lunch that was prepared by the children themselves, everyone gathered by the swimming pool for a general knowledge quiz. This got hands in the air and brought out a few participants’ competitive sides. Categories covered things that had been learnt on camp so far, as well as broader questions about conservation, South Africa and Africa. Towards the end a tiebreaker was called with the ‘Gorgeous Bush Shrikes’ managing to name the most of the ‘little 5’ to clinch the title. Storms started to build at this point and quiet time was welcomed by all, except the local baboon troop, who insisted that the quiz was not over.

Children in the Wilderness

Edward watches as his team copies a pratincole from the Newman’s Photo © Andy Wassung

The focus for this afternoon’s drive was on birding, with teams having to identify certain aspects of various birds such as size, beak, claws and colour. Then the teams drew a bird of their choice from the trusty Newman’s bird book and coloured it in. I noticed that some were very interested in the different kinds of birds and a few in particular had their eyes against the binocular cups intently throughout the drive. The Pafuri area is known as a birding hotspot of Southern Africa and is a great place to learn. There is no short supply of bulbuls, greenbuls, bush shrikes and robins, while trumpeter hornbills and Pel’s fishing owls offer more of a challenge. On the way back from Crook’s Corner, Edward drew to a halt when what we thought to be a log turned out to be a black mamba, which half-heartedly slithered off the road a couple of metres.  As per usual our return to camp was greeted by celebratory songs as if we were hunters returning to the village with a rich bounty. After supper everyone we were all treated to an episode of BBC’s Planet Earth, which had the children and adults awestruck.

Children in the Wilderness

On the birding drive, Nokuvanga gains focus while Victor excitedly awaits his turn Photo © Andy Wassung

Tonight, on my way to bed, I finally got a view of the wood owls! Moonlight is streaming in to my tent and there are a lot fewer bugs than last night. As they do after a long day in the bush, my eyelids are getting droopy as a hyena calls across the river. Let’s see what the last night at Pafuri camp and ‘Children in the Wilderness’ holds. I think it’s a bit cooler than last night so I’ll probably sleep with the fan off so that I can listen to the sounds of the African night better. The fireflies are levitating over the river again, slowly hypnotising me to sleep.



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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