About a month ago we had my cousin over from England. His girlfriend had never been to Africa, let alone South Africa. Mike and I have been talking about taking the girls to Hluhluwe or Umfolozi for a while, but thats all we did was ‘talk’ it. Well this was the perfect opportunity to stop talking and do it. We packed what we could on the Friday evening, then went to bed early so we did not over sleep, we wanted to get to the gate as it opened. I woke up at 3:30am to pack food for the family, Zac’s bag and clothes for the girls. I woke the rest of the family up at 4am and by 4:45 we were in the car all ready to go, girls and Zac still in their pyjamas and the rest of us showered and ready for the drive.
We decided to go to Umfolozi because it was the closer gate and when the girls woke up by 6am, the ‘how much longer?’ questions started. We arrived just on 7am, rolled out the car stretch our legs and got the kids dressed for our fun adventure in the game reserve. We decided to have breakfast at the gate and then by 7:45 we were ready to get going.
It was not long before we started to see animals. We were greeted at the gate by a rather large troop of baboons, who did not seem in any hurry to get off the road. But the girls loved it. Maddy sat on my cousins lap in the front turning her hands into binoculars telling us she is the ‘watcher outer’. About 15 minutes into our drive into the reserve we were greeted by 2 Rhino in the long grass, they were not going to be the last either, by the end of the day we had seen 14 Rhino. It may seem like a lot, but was absolutely heartbreaking to think how that number is in reality much closer to the maximum number of rhino left than we realize.
The girls were loving trying to spot the animals and Maddy was desperate to see elephant because that is her symbol at school. We soon saw a heard from the top of a hill over the valley walking through a clearing, it was not a close encounter but we got to see these beautiful animals in their natural habitat.
We meandered our way around the Umfolozi reserve, spotting LOTS of impala, some warthog and bush pig, a few Nyala and a few Zebras. We also saw a Buffalo literally right next to our car chilling in a mud pool. On our way out the reserve late that afternoon there was another buffalo joining that one so there must of been a herd really close in the thick bush that we didn’t even see.
We stopped for lunch at the picnic spot and were lucky enough to spot a Hippo in the far distance on the river banks.
Off we went again and this time got a really nice sighting of 2 Rhino under a tree some Zebra grazing and a Giraffe munching away. It was a beautiful picture of nature doing what it does best. Living together peacefully. We then went to a hideaway. It was a long walk to the actually hideaway and we had to walk along a path of green shade cloth to offer protection from the wild animals. We got out the car and a beautiful rather large Rhino just casually walked on by a couple of feet away from us. While walking to the hideaway we heard a noise and pressed our faces against the clothe only to see an entire herd of buffalo laying under the shady protection of some trees. We were able to put the girls on shoulders to have a good look.
In the hideaway we watched two male impala have a head tussle which was fascinating for the girls to watch. We then watched warthog rolling around in the mud of the watering hole. The girls counted about 10 Terrapins swimming around and sunning themselves on the rocks and tree branches.
Off we went again to find some more, we were on the look out for lion or cheetah and the ever elusive Leopard. We went a couple years ago, before the kids were even born and we saw a Leopard, it was a very lucky sighting. Sadly we did not come across any of the cats so we will need to go again soon.
Eventually by 2pm we started making our way out the reserves to start heading home. A quick toilet break at the gate and off we headed. We got home by 6pm. It was a long day, Zac was so good sleeping when he needed his napping and jumping around from person to person in the car excited to help dad drive or look out the window. The girls eventually also both fell asleep at about 2:30 just before we left the reserve.
Admittedly it was a long day, but is was a fun day, it was an adventure we will always talk about. It was an adventure we will definitely do again and something right on our doorstep so why not. To be able to educate our children about the wild and the wild animals is a gift and the love of conservation is something we as adults need to instil in them from a young age.
So if there is something you have been talking about, do it…stop talking and take your family on that adventure. As much as we enjoy our occasional alone time as husband and wife, we don’t want to have these adventures without our kids, we don’t want to take trips overseas or trips around South Africa without including our kids in the journey…one day they won’t remember what we bought them, they will remember the time we spent with them. Make every moment count. Parent on purpose and on purpose CHOOSE to spend time with your kids. Your phone can wait, your friends can miss you for one girls night, your sport will always be there, your kids will on be this age today and never again, because tomorrow they one day older, one day closer to becoming an adult and its one day less you get to spend with them, engaging with them, spending time with them on purpose not because it is a chore, but because it is an adventure and a privilege.
Stop talking about it and just do it…Take your kids on that family adventure, you do not have to have money to make memories and adventures, don’t make excuses, just do.