Reality TV stint in bush ‘the experience of a lifetime’, says pupil

2010-02-11 00:00

IMAGINE being away from home for a month with no cellphone, no television and, worst of all for a teenage girl, no lip gloss.

You are in the middle of the bush surrounded only by trees and wild animals. Sleeping in a tent and making fires have become a way of life.

If that sounds too much like reality television, then you’ve guessed right.

Bubbly Pietermaritzburg girl Pretty Mbhele (15), who is a pupil at Alex High, has first-hand experience of the bush, after participating in a reality show called Safari 8 at the Kruger National Park last year.

The show, which was produced by the BBC’s CBBC, a network for children’s programmes, is being aired in the UK in 30- minute segments, making up 13 series.

According to producers, the show involves four English and four South African children on an amazing adventure. It required them to spend a month in October living in the Kruger National Park and learning to be game rangers.

However, the adventure is about much more than wild animals and breathtaking scenery, they say.

The cast, under the watchful eye of two experienced wildlife rangers, learn to track, care and live among the “greatest animals” on earth.

In the end, the children are required to organise a safari experience for two celebrity guests as they track “the big five” in their final challenge.

Pretty, who is from Scottsville, said the experience was not remotely as she had envisaged — attending lectures and taking notes about the environment. Some of the challenges required her to eat worms, get up close and personal with wild animals like lions and, at one point, take a mouthful of kudu dung.

Still, she still described it as the experience of a lifetime.

“The funny thing is that my family has always seen me as someone who would never survive without the luxuries we have become so accustomed to. But I can now sit and laugh about the experience because of the things I have had to do. Not many people can own that.”

She recalled how she had to chew mopane worms, which she described as being crunchy with a salty taste. Pretty said she went without baths in the morning as a way of preserving the environment, and used the bush as a toilet.

Anton Theron, a grade eight head of department at Alex High, said Pretty was the ideal person for the show, as she is “vivacious, excited by life and not scared to show off her interests”. Schools all over South Africa received invitations to enter their students. Casting agencies and radio stations helped to select entrants.

Said Pretty,“I think the whole experience taught me about me. I always considered myself to be shy, but I learnt that I’m quite sociable. I have learnt that it is possible to adapt to whatever situation you are confronted with, and I can reach whatever goal I put my mind to.”

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