Taking children out into the bush is a great way for them to learn about animals and their tracks, and of course for them to get out and use some of that surplus energy that they have left over after an exciting game drive.
Londolozi’s Cubs Den programme is a great way for children to have some fun outdoors; from climbing trees to fishing, there is something for every child to enjoy. We are fortunate to have three family-friendly camps at Londolozi: Pioneer Camp, Founders Camp and Varty Camp.
In my few short weeks being involved with Cubs Den I have often found myself as excited as the children about finding lion tracks to mould or climbing one of the large sausage trees along the Sand River – a first for many of the children. In my room you will find an array of track moulds that I have collected from when we have extras (secretly I hope that these are never needed!). Over the winter months, as the pans dry up and the temperatures are cooler, the animals become more active during the day and move towards the river in search of water.
With most of our activities occurring along the river, myself and the children who joined me are regularly lucky enough to have our Cubs Den activities interrupted by unexpected guests.
Track moulding is when we mix plaster of paris with water and pour the mixture into an animal track of which there are many to be found along the river. One morning while track moulding at Finfoot we spotted a large breeding herd of elephants far upstream.
We noticed that one elephant was starting to make its way down the river and as it got closer we decided to get into the vehicle while our lion, leopard and hyena track moulds were drying. While walking past the tracks, out of curiosity the elephant gently touched and smelt the mould with its trunk. Uninterested, it moved along and walked straight over the mould without breaking or stepping on it. When it was again safe enough to get out of the vehicle, we found evidence of where the bull had touched the drying mould with its trunk, and of course stuck to the bottom of the mould was the sand from the river bed where the hyena had walked that morning. Needless to say, this track in particular immediately became a prized possession.
We have not only spotted elephants and hippos on the river but one morning on our way to Old Sycamore Fig (a beautiful rocky pool) we spotted a lioness. The ranger quickly noticed that she was hunting and moving straight towards a few nyala who were just off the river bed. Driving on the other side of the river, binoculars and track moulds in hand, we watched her attempt to make a kill. The nyala made a run for it through the river and the lioness dashed after her. It was an incredible chase to watch, and of course, great for tomorrow’s track moulding I thought! Unfortunately for the lioness, she missed.
On a separate occasion, coming back from the same rock pool, we headed back to camp through the Finfoot area (a prominent crossing point, and the same place at which the photo of the lioness above was taken). After crossing the river, Ranger Sean Zeederberg and Tracker Joy recognized the sound of monkeys alarm calling coming from a nearby tree and couldn’t resist investigating the commotion. There we found the Flat Rock male leopard walking towards the vehicle with a vervet monkey in his mouth.
We followed him and he moved into a thicket not too far off the road where we were able to watch him finishing off his kill. The following day, as you can imagine, it seemed that there were a lot more adults interested in joining what we had planned for Cubs Den that day!
Looking back on these memories reminds me of how important it is to have these exciting experiences as children, and how everyone of us should hold on to this child-like excitement about wild things. Being interrupted in our normal Cubs Den pursuits by some of Africa’s more spectacular wildlife is something I constantly remind myself how lucky I am to have happen.