The next morning we headed for Kruger, a seven hour drive from Joburg, on the way we stopped to take in the beautiful vista from the Blyde River Canyon. It was like an artist had come through and painted the walls of the canyon, which is exactly what happened, the artist was the Master of the Universe, Our Father.
In Africa a Bushbaby is a small mammal that resides in local trees. Our Bushbabies were eleven eager kids who were new to the bush but ready to soak up the environment, take on new challenges and face their fears. We all knew this was going to be a special place after meeting our guides, Ross and Mark. Driving into camp we ran across two rhinos beside the road. In our five days at Elephant’s Drift we found ourselves spending a lot of time in open Landrovers scouring the terrain for wild animals and we found a bunch, giraffes, zebras, impalas, elephants, kudus, bushbucks, steenboks, klipspringers, rhinos, hippos, civets, and hyenas to name a few.
The kids were captivated by the African bush. Ross and Mark, gave your kids an education in survival, conservation, working at a wildlife reserve, camping out and how life comes together to create a symbiotic relationship that makes this place we call Earth fit together like a giant jigsaw puzzle. At the same time your kids gave all the people at Elephant’s Drift an education on how engaged, polite, helpful and awesome American teens can be. They were awesome!
The first lesson the kids had to learn is that they could not walk around inside the camp at night by themselves or outside the camp without a guide. After seeing some of the animals that roam freely all around the camp it was an obvious reality. Each day was divided into segments, a game drive/walk in the morning with our group splitting up. Only four people could go on a game walk at one time, with an armed guide, so the rest of our group would load into an open Landrover and go look for game.
When we got back the groups broke down into smaller groups and rotated doing survival training, 4×4 driving lessons or leisure time at the camp. Mark our survivalist would take the groups and teach them what plants were eatable, how to find potable water by digging a hole and navigation in the bush. Ross would take the groups out and teach them how to drive a two ton manual drive Landrover, the lesson included driving down a steep hill, across a stream and then back up the hill.
Every evening we spilt up into two groups and went on a night game drive searching for the reflecting eyes of the elusive lions and leopards. Two nights we alternated camping in a tent camp or sleeping under the stars in a river bed, looking up at the Southern Cross and searching for satellites streaking across the sky, a fire blazing to keep the wild animals at bay.
Groups of two took turns standing watch all night to keep our group safe from wild animals. The night we camped out the smell of our braai brought a hyena in close and personal. The first clue was a pair of eyes coming towards the camp, the hyena that has the strongest jaws power in the jungle and is known as a tough scavenger. Anyone who wasn’t awake before our new friend arrived was up and headed for the parked jeep in a cold second. Mark grabbed his gun and a shovel and charged the hyena yelling as he threw the shovel at it. The hyena got the message and took off into the woods.
Our hosts mixed in a variety of other activities, including a competition that revolved around everyday work that is done at a lodge. Each team had to dig a trench 30’x15’ bury a water pipe, change a tire on the Landrover, dig a hole to find water and start a fire. I can tell you that we have some very competitive kids. Everyone dove in with gusto.
One afternoon we had a herpetologist come in with a menagerie of some of the smaller but creatures found in Africa, snakes, scorpions and spiders. Some of the kids got to pick up a Puff Adder, Africa’s deadliest snake, with a snake hook, hold a Tarantula, a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach and a ten foot Burmese Python. It was a proud moment to kids and leaders alike step up face some of their greatest fears.
The last night as we finished our game drive, they pulled into a small rock canyon lit with lanterns and two bonfires, tables set with tablecloths and silver. Our last braai in the bush felt like we were eating at a five star restaurant.
We finished up our trip with an Impala Poop Spitting Contest, yep the bush guides load a piece of Impala dung in their mouth and see how far they can spit it. Your kids were pretty good at it. I know you find it hard to get them to do their homework and to go to bed, we got them to stick Impala dung in their mouth and shoot it across the savannah.
Just check out what they said below about the bush part of their adventure.
I did not know what to expect during the first day at Elephant Drift. We were in the middle of the Bush or African Savannah with electric fences only to keep out large animals such as elephants, rhinos, and giraffes. However, I quickly began to get comfortable and accept the fact that nature is no different than humans. To say that this trip has changed my life is an understatement. I could never in my life imagine that I will wrap a snake around my neck, catch a deadly snake, or even come to a close encounter to a Hyena at night. Throughout our time in Elephant Drift we went out on Game drives, walking tours, and 4 by 4 driving, camping in tents and on the River beds. This was such an amazing experience not only did I get to experience the true nature of wildlife firsthand, I learned so much information that I can tell everyone back home about wildlife and how to survive in the Bush. I have to admit the most scariest experience of the Bush was the Hyena at our river bed that kept lurking and was ready to approach us about 8 meters away from us. The most gross experience of the Bush holding a huge cockroach on my hand. Now that’s something to tell your offspring.
I was completely nervous about this trip in general, excited beyond words, but definitely nervous. When we came to the gate of the park, I had butterflies because I had this astounding feeling that I would never be able to leave the same, and that is exactly what happened. Before I became involved with Dustin’s Greenhouse I hated nature because I had this irrational fear of it. I am so far away from that person and it’s only been 13 days. Throughout the week, I was faced with various adversities, that if you know me at all you would know I would never have done well in those situations. These various challenges include being 10 ft. away from a hungry hyena with nothing but a sleeping bag between us, having a snake sit on my shoulders, and hold a cockroach in my hand. I definitely have stories to tell my grandchildren(:
This has been the most amazing adventure that I have ever experienced. Every day is a brand new adventure and blessing. I am so impressed with each and every one of these wonderful young people that have been selected to be the DGH 2013. Not only have the students been experiencing so much and coming out of their norm but the adults have all been experiencing a whole lot as well. Being able to meet such beautiful people at each of the locations that we visited was a great blessing as well. As we left Elephants Drift it was like living family and another home and I think we were all sad to leave. The kids (&adults) I thought that would not want to be there in nature and away from electronic devices and away from their family for so long are doing so well and really didn’t want to leave the bush. I do miss my family but I am enjoying all of the DGH 2013 family, I am absorbing this entire experience and each and every amazing adventure we do and every special that we meet. Thank God, I have been so amazingly blessed!
My experience at Elephant Drift has been amazing. I really did enjoy my stay there on the camp base. I felt safe and secured. I learned a lot at the Drift in five days; from learning how to change a tire to learning how to start up a fire. Not only was this a good educational trip, but it was also a learning and life changing trip. I was taught things that I can use in day to day bases. The people at Elephant Drift have such a humbling sprit about them that makes you feel like you can do anything in this world if you put your mind to it. They work very hard at the Drift to make people smile and have hope. They educate you on things that you never knew. I am very happy I was able to experience this opportunity.