Writing and photos by Angelica Mills
Children in the Wilderness Bobirwa operates within the Northern Tuli Game Reserve. Children in the Wilderness (CITW) hosted another successful back-to-back series of Eco-Club camps at Serolo Camp in Tuli Wilderness. Tuli Wilderness kindly donated one week of accommodation, from 27 September – 5 October 2019, for the CITW camps organised by Tanya McKenzie and Isabel Wolf-Gillespie. Volunteers give of their time to act as mentors and run the programme, as did the Tuli Wilderness staff and rangers, who become real heroes to the children.
The two 2019 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 schools neighbouring the reserve, namely Lentswe-le-Moriti and Motlhabaneng primary schools.
During the CITW camp we create an uplifting and positive environment for all the children and mentors attending the camp. More importantly, we make the children feel loved and safe. It’s an incredible environment where we praise any and all achievements. We focus less on academic achievements and rather on outcomes from, for example, creativity with t-shirt painting, good behaviour, photography, spotting wildlife, having the courage to sing a song, and so much more.
Each and every CITW camp is different yet similar, and you never know what nature is going to surprise you with! Camp One got off to a cracking start, with some familiar faces amongst the children, and some new children already standing out. The sweetest little girl named Ruth told me about how passionate she is about conservation and saving wildlife and that, together with her grandmother, she helped an injured monkey in her village. One of the familiar faces, little Junior, or as I used to know him, Lone, really stood out. He always actively participated in everything and always tried his best to answer questions, even if he wasn’t sure.
We had some incredible wildlife sightings that ranged from daily elephant sightings to lions, a young leopardess and endless birdlife, and the camp ended with a last drive to a spotted hyaena den. This group expressed a lot of interest in various wildlife facts, and among the 16 children we identified three super leaders with great potential for becoming future wilderness leaders.
On Camp Two the children were slightly reserved, but proved to be one of the sweetest groups once the children started coming out if their comfort zones! On our first drive, we were treated to the best example of the circle of life: lions had taken down an antelope during the evening and one lioness stayed close by, while not too far from her a few hyaenas lurked for a share of the leftovers and a pair of cheeky jackals tried their luck, creeping ever closer!
This group showed exceptional interest in learning about trees, birds and insects, and that our ecosystem is more than just the bigger animals. We had one outstanding spotter who led us to a very special sighting of two leopards across a dry riverbed from one another! On Camp Two we identified another two super leaders with immense potential to become future wilderness leaders.
On our last evening, a porcupine walked into camp – a first sighting for many, even the volunteers! We couldn’t have asked for a better ending to another life-changing Children in the Wilderness camp.