I finally got to see a happy lion thanks to SANParks Open Week

img_2194Every year SANParks have an open week in September where it is free for all South Africans to visit any of our national game reserves. I have to admit that as homeschoolers we kind of love Open Week. If nothing else it always serves as a reminder that hey we have game reserves around here and we should visit them! This year, we are sadly going to have to give Addo a skip as a family…but on a happier note the reason we have to skip it is because next week we are road-tripping to Clarens!

I was, however, lucky enough to be invited to tag along with Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism on their trip to Addo Elephant Park yesterday – along with some crazy people, I might add – and I’m so glad that instead of being reasonable and declining the offer due to this month being chaos from (nice*) hell, I accepted the invitation and tagged along.

Sarah Dirsuwei from Chasing the Rainbow told me yesterday that if she is feeling particularly stressed due to work pressures she and her family will come out to Addo and just spend the day marvelling at the elephants. I have to admit I think she has a point. Spending the day out there in nature, allowing yourself to be taken in by the existence of such fascinating creatures, is cathartic to say the least. And if nothing else, it certainly makes you ponder the world, instead of yourself.

img_2221As we started our journey through the park, I found myself wondering – not for the first time – about why we even bother having zoos. This right here is how we learn, I thought. It is so hard to get on board with the “reasoning” that zoos need to exist because they are how our children learn about animals. Nonsense! Conservation is how our children learn about animals. And sanctuaries. And nature. And the circle of life. There I was, at 34, listening intently and learning so much as our game ranger tour guide shared all his wisdom with us. Explaining why there are no giraffes in the park (no tall trees – guys we should have concluded this with our own logic) and telling us about all sorts of wonderful and interesting things. I felt cleverer just listening to him. Don’t take my kids to the damn zoo. Take them on a game drive!

And then, almost as if nature herself was thanking me for that very observation, our vehicle turned left and right there napping on the grass were two beautiful male lions. I’ve never seen them out there in the wild. I’ve seen them in cages, looking bedraggled and weary. I’ve been on so many game drives, but not once have I ever been fortunate enough to spot the lions. One time there was one very far away and I could only see him by using the telescopic zoom on my camera, but that didn’t count. There they were though, napping in the shade, content as kittens. It’s such a pity that attempting to cuddle them would lead to certain death…

All I have left on my game viewing bucketlist is a hippo. I’m pretty sure that means that I had a damn successful weekend! I wish I could take even more advantage of SANParks Open Week this week. I wonder if I can convince the husband to take a day off work?

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*nice hell is when you’re super overwhelmed but the reason you’re overwhelmed is because you’re working towards something awesome. In this particular case: Road trip to Clarens with the kidlets followed by 6 days of bliss in Zanzibar with the husband. The impending breakdown will be worth it. I’m sure.

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