Outstanding summer programs for teens since 1982
Header Item 1

The Westcoast Connection Blog

Life Changing Experiences

Buffalo, Rhinos, Hippos-Oh My!

Buffalo, Rhinos, Hippos-Oh My!

Picking up where we left off brings us back to the Gorutha Toy Library. We started off playing memory games with the kids. The children ranged from pre-school to around 15 years old. The children are currently in their winter holidays and so this was a holiday club of sorts. The games are designed to educate the children while at the same time being entertaining. Moving on from memory games we got to make and play with play-dough. There were some play-dough making experts among us, the rest being amateurs. The most noticeable pro was Lola who assured us she had done this sort of thing many times; a statement that was easy to believe with the high quality dough her group produced. Despite getting off to a shaky start with the making of the dough Emily, Lauren Ma and Lauren P’s group, with the help of Donald our awesome driver, produced a play-dough masterpiece. The work of art consisted of a family portrait with contributions from the entire group and included every colour of dough made that day.
After the educational fun we had lunch and then headed out to play. It didn’t take long before a soccer game was born! Carly got to show off her athletic prowess as she led the visitors to a close victory over the home team. Also to be noted for their stellar performance are Daniel, Brandon, Lauren Ma, Spencer, Val, Jessie R, Stephen our guide and Donald our awesome driver. Danielle did well in the sandpit on the sidelines avoiding all the wayward soccer balls while playing with some of the little cuties. Amelia opted for the inside option and read classic Disney to a fair number of the children. We ended the day with a final group photo with the children before getting back on the bus and heading home. Jake finally snapped a picture of the African sunset that he had been trying to capture.

The 4th of July was an exciting day for all as we got to dually celebrate July 4th and our guide Stephen’s birthday!  After we managed to put the festivities behind us we headed out to serve those less fortunate than ourselves. The project today was the Hlokomela Herb Garden, a self sustaining farm that focuses on educating and providing fresh produce to the surrounding impoverished communities. After a brief introduction, we were split into three groups; a compost group, a harvesting group and a weeding group. We all put in an admiral amount of labour! Special note, however, should be made of Ben who was the shining star of the weeding group as he toiled all day stopping only for a lunch break. Also to be noted for their efforts in the garden are Jennifer, Lauren P, Olivia, Jessica B and Liz Ma. Our Gardening done we headed home stopping on our way at a local reptile park were Carly, Brandon, Lauren P and Lauren Ma all put their fears aside to hold one of the larger snakes in the park. After our brief yet fun stop we boarded the bus once more and headed home for a lovely Matumi dinner and a well earned rest.

The next day got off to a late start as everyone slept in. A late breakfast was followed by some casual games of frisbee and soccer as well as simply enjoying the day and socialising. After lunch everyone got into their tour teams as we prepared for the mini Olympics. Every member got to enter an event and there was no shortage of surprises as all brought their considerable athletic prowess to bear. Possibly the biggest surprise was Joanna’s skill at limbo. Despite being considerably taller than the other two contestants she put up a valiant fight and was only beaten in the very final stages of the game losing narrowly to Danielle and Amy who won the gold for the event. The other gold medallists of the day were Carly in the 50 meter dash, Daniel in the arm-wrestle, Tara in the skipping event, Valerie in the wall squat and Emily and Lauren P came tied in the cereal tasting event. After a break to freshen up the group boarded the bus once more to head off to a Shangana Village, the Shangana being one of South Africa’s many ethnic groups. Once we arrived we were greeted by some lovely starters of impala, corn and mopani worms. It came as no surprise that the worms were not the favourite food of the night although there were a few brave souls who gave them a try. After starters we walked down to the chief’s hut where his brother greeted us and welcomed us to share his fire. We learnt about the Shangana people and their lifestyle and then headed to the medicine man, called a sangoma’s, hut. Here he taught us about some of the medicines he uses. After this we headed to the main section of the village, as the South African’s call it, the main kraal. It was here that we were entertained with song and dance depicting the history of the Shangana people after which we ate a traditional dinner with the chief’s brother. The show continued after dinner and even included some dancing from our own trip members. Lizzy Mi was fortunate enough to be chosen as the head dancer’s partner and entertained us all from centre stage.

The first activity for the following day was a trip to visit the world famous Jessica the hippo. She is a hippo that was found and raised by former game ranger Tonie and his wife Shirley after she was prematurely born and separated from her mother during a flooding. Everyone got a chance to feed Jessica and got to meet a new baby hippo that Tonie and Shirley have taken in. Everyone loved Jessica but none more than Sydney who had to be dissuaded from taking her home with us. Having said our good-byes to Jessica we headed back to Matumi for an evening game drive. We were all very excited and spent the evening searching for and viewing much of the exciting game of South Africa. Of special note were the buffalo and rhino that we saw (two of the big 5).

Saturday saw us eat our final meal at Matumi followed by sad farewells to Alida and Pieter who have been brilliant hosts during our stay in Mpumalanga. We headed out for our first stop at God’s Window, a viewpoint at the top of the beginning of the Drakensberg Mountains, which looks down 900m to the valley below, before moving on to the next attraction along the road -Bourke’s Luck Potholes. These potholes were formed at the joining of two rivers over hundreds of years.  These can be seen as perfectly rounded holes at the bottom of a large canyon. After this breathtaking stop-off we drove through to Johannesburg.


Until the next,


The Westcoast Blogger

Check out our 13-day and 25-day trips for a unique student travel to South Africa with wildlife, scenic landscapes, and cultural experience.