Gondwana: Calling all junior rangers

2013-05-14 08:27
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Thandora's first days in the wild

After 23 years of captivity, Thandora, an elephant from Bloemfontein Zoo is walking in the wild again. We take a look at what she's been up to in her first two days of freedom.

Gondwana Game Reserve, the 11 000ha fynbos paradise situated close to Mosselbay, along the Garden Route has just launched their Junior Ranger programme.  A word of warning, being a fireman, lawyer or doctor pales when the possibility of being a ranger enters the minds of young people.  If you go, your children are going to have only one career choice for quite a while.
The Junior Ranger Programme caters for children from 4 years to teens and keeps your little and young ones busy, while you relax on a game drive.


They get taken on an educational game drive which includes interactive activities, doing projects in the bush and learning to identify animals and plants. Each Junior Ranger will get a backpack which includes a safari booklet and whatever else will be needed. The younger children will spend most of their time around the lodge, while the older children will move out into the veld. They will also be quizzed by their ranger and receive a certificate and Junior Ranger Patch.

Typical Day

A 06:30 wake-up call starts a typical day at the reserve. Half-an-hour later the coffee and accompanying baked delight at the meeting point helps your body kick in for the 3-hour dawn drive.

The Junior Rangers go off with their rangers.

All bundled up against the cold you hoist yourself up onto the game viewing vehicle and grab a poncho or blankey for your knees.

The freshness of the dawning day hits you and you know. It’s going to be a good one.

Our ranger and guide is PG, a young man with a passion for the veld, still studying for his game management diploma at the nearby Saasveld college. We soon spot red hartebeest, but don’t linger too long because PG thinks he knows where a pride of young lions might have made a kill during the night.

I spot the male lolling lazily in the morning sunlight next to the road. PG sees one of the cubs. We see the kill, a gemsbok under a tree, with something moving. It’s the other cub. Exciting. PG manoeuvres us round and radios the other vehicle. We can’t get enough.

The cubs can also not get enough. The one cub climbs right into the carcass. Mom is on the other side of the road in the shade. One eye barely open. Tummy full, lethargic. Magic.

We move off. Go and look for Thandora the elephant about to be released from her boma. She comes and “greets” us at the fence, one leg slightly raised in greeting.
Greg Vogt of Conservation Global who is helping return Thandora to the wild briefs us. It is a moving story.

In the next valley we see grey reebok and some buzzards.

Our breakfast is a picnic in the veld at a little escarpment overlooking a beautiful valley. Each couple gets their own picnic basket. Very pleasant. We get back to the lodge at noon. Time for a little nap.

At 16:30 high tea is served. You can get coffee or juice. There is a bewildering array of food on offer.

For our evening drive PG takes us on the western route. We pass two elephant bulls grazing in a fynbos forest. Yes, forest. The protea are up to 3 or 4 metres tall on this ridge. We just see the ellies.

Sugar birds dart between the flowers. The males with long tails, the better to impress the females.

PG engages low range and we ease our way down into a hidden valley. Lovely stuff. We see giraffe, rhino, a slightly crazy looking black wildebeest. Around the corner a herd of eland run up a mountainside. All the other animals become skittish.

Cheetah? I like to think so.

Dinner is an amazing affair.

The main meat dish is spit braai bush pig. Mmmm. They serve roosterkoek (balls of bread dough cooked on a grid over the coals) with the evening meals. Brilliant touch.

After the excellent meal we collapsed.

A win-win escape

Gondwana is simply perfect for the parents who want to enjoy peace and tranquillity and at the same time allow their children to learn about nature, the fynbos eco system and conservation - no doubt they will also learn a little bit about themselves.

The cost of the Junior Rangers Programme is included in the fully inclusive rate R1 750 (half board) to R2 400 (full board). It costs R300 for day visitors. There are basically two types of accommodation, huts (two people) and villas (up to six).

Gondwana is fairly unique in that it is a fynbos park. It is very different to the traditional bush, or even karoo type of reserve. It will be a new experience to most people.

Expect to see eland, oryx, impala, springbok, kudu, grey bushbuck, giraffe, white rhino, elephant and lion. If you are very lucky you may see leopard and cheetah. The bird life is prolific.

Gondwana Game Reserve is a great escape and its only 4 hours from Cape Town or an hour from George.
Read more on:    weekend escapes  |  lifestyle  |  south africa


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