The 2019 annual Children in the Wilderness (CITW) Bobirwa December camps hosted a total of 32 children between the ages of 9 and 13, with an equal representation of boys and girls. The participating learners were from two schools neighbouring Mashatu Game Reserve, namely Semolale and Gobojango primary schools.
The first camp commenced by welcoming back some familiar little faces. It amazes me how confident some of them are from day one, a quality I have been striving for over the last couple of years. The more camps I attend, the more I grow – just as the children do, and the more I start to believe in myself. Some took a bit longer than others to come out of their shells, but once they get awarded a super camper, the confidence shines from within!
This group was treated to some great sightings, which included a large herd of elephants walking straight past the vehicle, a curious cheetah cub playing with a pair of leopard tortoises and the resident male lion on their last drive! A moment I will cherish forever was driving through mud and after I smeared the splash of mud on my face, the sweetest little girl, Omo, wiped the mud from my face with her tissue.
The children were all eager to learn more and expressed a great interest in conservation and the various career opportunities available at the lodge. We even welcomed some much-needed pula, and the children were fortunate enough to witness rivers coming down, and how everything in nature is connected.
Camp Two started with a bit more of a challenge, with lots more pula pouring down and the Eco-Mentors improvising with indoor learning and games. I shared a treasured drive with a boy named Kgomotso, who confided in me that he would like to identify as many birds as possible. He loved trying to name them and look them up in my bird book to see what they looked like up close. As a keen birder with lots to learn still, I absolutely loved the moments we shared on the drive.
This group excelled with various wildlife facts, and among the 16 children we identified three super leaders with great potential for becoming future wilderness leaders. One of them, named Michelle, was incredibly confident and always knew the answers. A quiet, diligent girl that I admire dearly.
When the rain finally cleared the group was treated to a gorgeous leopardess, a cheetah mother and her four cubs feeding, elephants and a clumsy hyaena all in one afternoon’s drive. We couldn’t have asked for a better ending to another life-changing Children in the Wilderness camp. Come rain or shine, nothing stood in our way of learning and having fun!
The camps would not have been possible without the generosity of Mashatu Game Reserve, and of course the hard work and co-ordination of our beloved Aunty Tanya! A huge thank you to the wonderful and loving Mashatu staff and guides and, of course, the incredible group of Eco-Mentors (Jeanne-Marie Koekemoer, Charlotte Jonsson, Sarah Whitaker, Luca Zambetti, Graham Style, Nelisha Nel and Nichola Quarmby), and teachers and tent leaders (Prudence, Barati, Rex and Goms), who offered up their valuable time and made the camps such a huge success with treasured memories.
Report and photographs by volunteer Eco-Mentor Angelica Mills