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Embracing the Wilderness:

A Journey of Growth and Discovery

So, I took my first group of kids out on the trail, and what an eye-opening experience it turned out to be. These kids were just 12 and 13 years old—pretty young for such an adventure. But they weren’t the only ones who grew during this journey; I learned a lot about teaching young ones how to handle themselves in the wild, how to be responsible for their gear, and how to navigate the environment safely.

We set off from The Outpost right after lunch, gearing up for a three-day trek along the Luvuvhu River. The kids needed time to adjust to their packs, so I was extra cautious. Our first stop was near an old elephant carcass—just some bones, really, but the size of it left us all a bit awestruck. It was a powerful reminder of the life and death cycles in the wild, and it sparked a lot of curiosity among the kids.

First Night: Getting Settled

That first night, we had a family of four with us—parents and their twins—and my son Ben. So, we were three kids, two adults and two guides. Setting up camp was revealing; everyone had their own way of packing and planning. Even though the family was experienced in camping, backpacking in a big five environment is a whole different ball game. It took longer than expected to set up tents and cook, but they were troopers.

By the next morning, they were up early, packing in the dark. It took a while, but once we got moving, everyone found their stride. Day two was tough, with a steep climb through the mountains past Lanner Gorge View, which offers one of the most stunning vistas in Kruger. The descent back to the Levuvhu for lunch and the river walk to our next campsite at Mangala was a highlight. By now, everyone was settling into the rhythm of the trail.

Day Two: Finding Our Stride

The second night at Mangala, under a nearly full moon, was magical. We had some fantastic elephant encounters and saw buffalo coming down to the river. The kids were really getting the hang of things, managing their equipment better and learning the ropes. They struggled a bit on the long day, but it was a great lesson in perseverance. They didn’t complain once, which was incredible. Watching the twins run to photograph the moon setting was a moment that really stuck with me.

We also taught them about conserving water—how little you actually need to get clean—and managing their food and supplies. Each kid had a bag of sweets at the start, and naturally, they finished them quickly. It was a practical lesson in managing resources.

Day Three: Lessons in Patience and Reflection

On the third day, we walked through the Luvuvhu West floodplain to the Mashishiti spring. We had a lovely lunch under a Nyala tree, and some of the kids even took a nap. It was interesting to see how they handled the quiet time—no noise, no distractions. It’s an important lesson to be comfortable with silence and stillness, especially in the wild.

Our final night was spent without a fire, just soaking in the moonlight and watching elephants and buffalo come to drink. It reminded me of the last time I was there, watching the Springboks win the Rugby World Cup under a full moon. This time, the coincidence was striking as I found myself in the same place, under the same moon, watching the same animals and the Springboks playing their next game of rugby, this time against Wales.

Wrapping Up: A Journey of Growth

The next morning, we had a short walk to our pickup point. It was an early end to the trail, but the experience was profound for everyone involved. The kids, the family, my son Ben, and even myself—we all learned so much. It wasn’t easy, but the sense of responsibility and the growth I saw in the kids was worth every challenge.

Claudia, my fellow guide, was incredible, providing great support. Ben really stepped up, taking on tasks he doesn’t usually handle at home, like boiling water and packing up the tent. It made me think about how we can better prepare kids for these experiences, maybe even considering trips without parents to foster more independence.

This adventure got me thinking about the future of our youth trails. There’s so much potential for family bonding and teaching kids about the wild in a hands-on way. It’s a stark contrast to their usual digital world, taking things back to basics and showing them a different way of life.

If you’re interested in taking your kids on a wilderness adventure, reach out. It’s an amazing way to bond and expose them to the wonders of nature. Let’s chat about how we can make it happen.