Written by Angelica Mills
It’s 10 days at Mashatu Tent Camp where shrieks of laughter float through the camp and 64 little feet dance through the gravel pathways each day. Boys and girls from two neighbouring schools, Semolale and Gobojango are welcomed onto Mashatu for the December Children In the Wilderness Camps, for one incredibly life-changing journey.
The first camp commenced by welcoming back some familiar little faces. The children often arrive feeling shy and unsure of what lies ahead, but after the first song, lots of hugs and ‘high-fives,’ they start to bounce with energy and excitement and the smiles begin to emerge. Some take a bit longer than others to come out of their shells, but once they get awarded a super camper award, 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 being splashed on my face, only to have the sweetest little girl, Omo, wipe the mud off my cheeks 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 rain, or ‘Pula’ in the local Setswana language, and the children were fortunate enough to witness entire rivers starting and how everything in nature is connected.
Camp two started with a bit more of a challenge, with some large thunderstorms and plenty more ‘pula’ gracing the land. The eco-mentors had to learn to improvise with indoor learning and games. I shared a treasured drive with a boy named Kgomotso, as he asked me to help him 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 from up close. As a keen birder with still lots to learn, I absolutely loved the moments we shared on that 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.
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 hyena 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 generous donation from 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, the teachers and tent leaders (Prudence, Barati, Rex and Goms), 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) that offered up their valuable time and made the camps such a huge success with treasured memories.