Today would be the final day of our tour and although it’s sad to think it’s our last day, it’s equally as nice to know that ReachingOut2TheWorld was able to reach all its goals.
After the past two days I didn’t even bother setting an alarm. I knew that my anxiousness would have me out of bed bright and early and if that didn’t work I knew I could rely on the guys waking me up. Breakfast wasn’t until 8 but we were all up and moving around 7. This made it a little easier for everyone to get up, dressed, packed, and ready to go. I don’t think it’s necessary but everyone even made their beds! Once everyone was accounted for and ready to go Dan and I brought them all down to the breakfast, which consisted of toast, muffins, fruit, and cereal.
We still had a bit of time before it would be time to go so the 8 of them split up into two teams and played a game of beach soccer to pass the time. I thought the teams looked a little unfair until I saw them running around on the sand and realized they were all at a disadvantage. Soccer on the sand is much harder and had everyone tripping over each other. In the end the underdogs won and it was just in time for everyone to board the van.
We only had one adventure planned for today and that was the safari at Botlierskop. After driving about an hour West we arrived at the reserve and were directed to our overland vehicle. Everyone piled into the truck and we began driving to our first spot of interest. None of the guys had ever been on a safari before and a few of them expressed a concern for being some animal’s lunch. Every time we came up to a new group of animals they were always sure to ask what the animal ate and if the animal had any enemies. Their next question was usually along the lines of asking if the animal could kill a person. Our guide was great and answered every question the boys had to ask and I was thrilled with all the questions they were asking.
The reserve is 7,000 acres and is filled with all sorts of animals. To give you an idea of how big that is, the safari attached to Six Flags Great Adventure is only 350 acres. That’s 20 times the size! Inside this reserve it’s easy to forget you’re in an enclosed area. The surrounded fences are there only partially to keep the animals in, in fact most of the animals could probably get out if they wanted to. Antelope especially have the ability to leap extreme heights. The main reason for the fences is to actually keep people out, more specifically poachers. An ongoing problem in Africa is the poaching of rhinos. The horn of a rhino sells for big bucks on the black market. I won’t get into detail about how the poachers go about taking the horn off a rhino but it doesn’t usually involve killing it first with a gun shot. A gun shot would draw too much attention which is why the poachers generally use machetes. It’s a pretty graphic situation. Other animals are a threat for being captured for breeding and hunting purposes. A wildebeest is commonly used by the rich for private hunting sessions, and are breaded at high costs.
All the animals except the lions and elephants had free roam of the property. This is great for the animals but can sometimes make it difficult for game drivers because their first task is to find the animals. We didn’t see any rhino today but we got really lucky with a few very close drive-byes with the giraffes, and lions! Actually, both the giraffes and the lions were right in the middle of the road.
In the beginning we went to visit the elephants. There were three of them and they made up a small family. Elephants are very family oriented and stay together forever. There was a baby elephant joined with his two parents. He was 7 years old and already pretty large. Elephants continue growing late into their old age which can exceed 70 years old! The day before all the boys were able to really interact with the elephants, feeding and touching them, so I wondered if they were confused as to why they had to stay in the vehicle today.
After the elephants we continued to drive around the reserve learning about the different animals we came across. The next big animals we came across were the giraffes, and they happened to be right along the road. Giraffes are such awkward animals but are still an impressive sight to see. There were two males and two females in the group we came across and they each seemed to enjoy having their pictures taken. A group of giraffes is actually called a tower of giraffes. Many questions later we moved on to our next big animal, the lions!
It was easy to tell how excited everyone was by all the commotion that was going on behind my seat. Everyone was so chatty and seemed to be on the edge of their seats. Like I said before, the lions are kept in a different part of the reserve which is only a fraction of the size of the rest of the farm. To enter this area we had to first go through a set of motorized gates. Our guide reminded all the passengers to please keep all your arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times and to try and keep their voices down. Mawande asked our guide if the lions would eat us and he was so sincere in his question that we both couldn’t help but to suppress a laugh. She responded that a lion could very well eat a person but that she’d would be sure to not let anything like that happen. It wasn’t long after pulling into this new area that I glimpsed the lions off in the distance. It was great that we were able to locate them so quickly because there is never a guarantee that you’ll be able to find any of the animals. As we approached the cats we noticed that they were lying in the middle of the road. This was perfect for photo opportunities but made our exit a bit difficult. Our guide didn’t want to scare the lions or encourage them to move towards us so we had to ever so carefully creep by them. It was a bit suspenseful as our 11 passenger vehicle quieted down to a hush and we made the pass.
The lions and the elephants are also the only animals within the reserve that have been given names. Their names had been given to them before joining the reserve which is why they stuck. Our guide told us that they usually try not to name the animals because it’s important to not become too attached. There were three lions in total, two lionesses and one male. The only name I can remember is the male, and that’s because his name was Chris. The kids all got a pretty good kick out of finding out the lion and I shared the same name. As we drove away I asked our guide what kind of a name Chris is for a lion. If I ever had a lion I would most certainly name it something from the Lion King! She referenced the short film about a lion name Christian. I remember seeing this film long ago but had forgotten about it. Check it out sometime if you’d like to see a cool film about two friends who raised a lion, released it into the wild, and then came back to reunite with it.
Once we saw the lions it was just about time to head back to the lodge for lunch. Lunch was ham and cheese sandwiches served with fries. These were great but not totally filling. Our next drive was the long ride back to Kayamandi so we first made sure everyone used the bathroom.
Unlike the long ride on our second day of traveling, the kids had no problems falling asleep on our return trip. After 4 days of awesome activities we were all pretty exhausted. Along the drive we passed through some beautifully scenic areas where a camera just couldn’t do the view justice.
The closer we got to Kayamandi the more it set in that our trip was over. I know the boys really enjoyed their trip and they will remember it for a life time. Dan and I are planning on printing photos for each of the kids and creating small photo albums for everyone to remember the trip by.
I can’t thank everyone enough for all the support ReachingOut2TheWorld has received. I hope you were all able to read and see the joy this trip brought these guys and how positive of an impact it will have on their lives.
A special thanks to Isaac, my good friend and our incredible driver. Without Isaac I know this trip wouldn’t have been nearly as great without him. Isaac, you are a truly awesome person and we all love you! NdiyaKuthana!
Thanks to all our supporters who reached out via the Indiegogo campaign, and helped contribute to this project. We have so much more to share with you which Dan and I are anxious to distribute. Once Internet becomes a bit more manageable we’ll be loading lots more pictures and videos from our tip with the guys.