There was great excitement as families arrived at Bushwillow Park in the Karkloof on the 9 December 2017, and started setting up camp together. Grown ups were prepped beforehand to be patient and to teach their kids the practical skills of setting up camp. It was great fun watching the kids learn (and in some cases relearn) the tricks of putting up tents and gazebos. A highlight was watching families laugh together as the campsite took shape.
After building up a sweat, the kids were immediately drawn to the dam where they enjoyed a relaxing cool down session. Some of the kids discovered the squishy mud which resembled a dirty version of clay, this resulted in lots of mud play (including some mud fights).
Later that afternoon, we sat together and discussed the Karkloof forests and how they differ from plantations. Kids were fascinated by all the creatures that are found in forests and asked a heap of questions. This was followed by a family scavenger hunt, helping everyone familiarise themselves with Bushwillow Park and getting them to look a little closer at some of the grassland flowers, animal signs and forest treasures along their route. The stories that returned were priceless and a book could surely be published from them.
After the scavenger hunt, fishing started in earnest at the dam with fellow Honorary Officers of the Weenen Nature Reserve, Gawie and Monya, who were keeping track of the fish caught. Excited calls of “Another one for…” followed us as we cleared up the remnants from the scavenger hunt. Upon our arrival at the dam, the sight of kids casting their lines and hooking fish was heartwarming and reminded us why we run the KRANES kids club in the first place.
We were most impressed by a parent, Crossley Black, who had made fishing rods out of bamboo for his kids and using a porcupine quill as the float.
The hype of fishing became contagious amongst the kids that hadn’t even planned to fish. Soon, the banks of the dam were filled with kids using a range of makeshift rods from sticks of all shapes and sizes.
A few of us where hungrier than others, so took a break from fishing to light the braai fires. Monya taught the kids how to start the braai and introduced them to the term “kindling”.
Once the fires were lit and ready, lines up was called and the fun moved back to the shed, where a catch-and-chase game developed to build up an appetite. Delaney took her braaing duties seriously, making sure she didn’t overcook the meet for her family.
All great camps include the traditional stokbrood and marshmallow dessert making use of the remaining coals. Those who lasted long enough enjoyed a peaceful nightwalk back to the camp. No fireflies were found and the stars were hiding, but we heard many frogs and the haunting call of the Buff Spotted Flufftail.
We welcomed the fresh new day with forest yoga to stretch the tired muscles from the day before and consciously breathing in the crisp morning air. The kids immediately started fishing afterwards and very soon calls of “Fish on for…” rang across the campsite as the parents were fixing up their breakfasts.
The fishing competition was intense with kids hooking fish at a rate faster than what the adults could remove hooks at. Soon everyone realised that it would be better to remove the hooks and release the fish themselves, and so the numbers caught kept climbing. Finally, the final countdown began and as “lines up” was called the last catch was made and the final tally was 442 fish.
After such an exciting start to the morning, we went for a short hike in the forest. Kids were able to experience drinking crystal clear water straight from the stream. They also found out firsthand why the Common Wild Impatiens is your best friend after coming into contact with the dreaded Stinging Nettle.
They found Pill Millipedes and learnt the importance of decomposers in a forest. Thomas kindly shared his knowledge about the importance of trees falling down and how it encourages smaller trees to grow faster due to the increased sunlight. He even gave us the stats on how much faster they grow. (A future ecologist in the making).
Tired, but happy families headed home after a brief wrap up and prize giving.
The Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Lions River Honorary Officers, who are headed up by Kim Gillings (District Conservation Officer), are instrumental in the success of this campout. The Karkloof Conservancy truly values their efforts in introducing children and their families back into nature through the KRANES kids club. The KRANES team would like to thank Monya and Gawie van Dyk, Honorary Officers of Weenen Nature Reserve, for their assistance over the weekend and look forward to their future involvement.
Prize giving results:
- 1st Fish caught: Josh
- Biggest Fish caught: Josh
- Most Fish caught: Cameron (92)
- Smallest Fish caught: Kezia
- Weirdest catch: Delaney (crab)
- Most Progressive fisher”man”: Jessica
- Youngest fisherman: Torin (8 fish caught)
- Last fish caught: Jessica B.
- Fisherman’s Initiative: Nian (digging for earthworms as bait)
- Closest guess to total fish caught of 442: Stephan (465)