When people ask me what it is like growing up in the Kruger National Park in South Africa, I usually mock and tell them that they can wait for my book to be published. A book full of stories about growing up in this wonderful place. A book full of laughs and tears about the place that I call home. A book that can give a little taste of what it is like to grow up in the Kruger.
The problem is this empty threat has always been a dream of mine but never becomes a reality because, well because life happens. So now this empty threat will be turned into blog posts.
A blog just seems like the best place where it is free for all to enjoy my stories. So, therefore, I can now finally share with you the confessions of growing up as a Bushveld Child.
So let me start out with the basics of living in Africa – We do not live in a mud hut and we do not ride elephants and lions to work (sorry for bursting your bubble). We also have internet (obviously, otherwise this would’ve been in book form).
So why do this blog?
While living in Kruger it is as if the universe conspired and made things happen to our family and friends. We have the craziest stories to tell. That is why I thought: “If you enjoy writing, why write fiction when you can tell stories that have already happened?” Stories that are not really part of everyday life. Stories that can be shared with family. Stories that can even be read as bedtime stories. Or stories that can be enjoyed with your morning cup of coffee. Stories that make you love Kruger even more.
So in these blog posts, I plan to tell you stories that would make you laugh. Or that would make you move to the edge of your seat. Stories that might make you cringe with suspense, or a story that might make you cry. I want to tell you about the good times and the bad times while living in paradise. I want to tell you about the place that defined me as a human. So that is why in this post I will start out with some background and take the journey from there. My stories might start in a chronologic order, but later they might jump around in time. So here goes nothing (or everything!). I hope you are as excited as I am about the journey to come. Feast your eyes:
We moved to Kruger in 1996 – a year before I started school.
The Kruger National Park is the largest National Park in South Africa while covering an area of 19 485 square kilometers (7 523 sq miles). It was also South Africa’s first National Park established in 1926. In the park, you can find 147 types of various mammals including the famous big 5 (The lion, buffalo, elephant, rhino, and leopard). About 253 bird species call Kruger its home. While 114 reptiles can also be found in the park – this ranges from snakes to lizards to crocs.
There are 21 rest camps in the park and a few tent camps and also a few private lodges. When moving to Kruger in 1996 we settled down in Satara but later moved to Skukuza. There was a lot of planning and adapting for a family coming from the Free State with kids aged 3 and 6.
As you can see we had plenty to keep us busy with when thinking of encounters and fiascos with animals. This ensured a very unique upbringing by my parents. They had to cater for different dangers and warn us about different things. While we received the speech about not taking candy from strangers, we were also told not to leave the gate open at night because a bushbuck or an elephant might pay your green garden a visit. Or to keep the doors locked – not because of criminals but because you may find a baboon joining you for breakfast.
That is why I invite you to take this journey with me, as I relive these moments on black and white. May this help you love nature more, plan a trip to Kruger or simply think back to the time you visited the park and had some encounters with animals yourself.
Although these stories may seem crazy and dramatic I can assure you they are 100% true.
I currently live in a town called Potchefstoom where I work at the North-West University. Sometimes I find myself waking up at night being sure that I heard the unique sound of a hyena or the roar of a lion. To this day I first think that I am approaching a leopard when it is a stray dog in the distance. To this day when I see broken branches in the road while driving to work, the first thing that comes to mind is the fact that there might be elephants in the area and not that of the raging storm of the previous night.
My parents are still living in the Kruger, in the small staff village of Skukuza. With about 300 houses. The village has a fully functional primary school, a police station, post office and a church. You can go for a swim or join the warthogs for a game of rugby or cricket on the schools’ sports ground. The staff village does not have a fence – resulting in animals roaming around freely and staff members living with them in harmony – well mostly.
When I get the time and have the courage for the six-hour drive, I go for a visit. When driving through the Phabeni gate, so many memories cross my mind. Memories of being chased by various animals, memories of the community, memories of being naughty while putting my life in so much danger. Memories etched into my mind. Memories of a place I will forever call home.
My childhood was very different from a normal child growing up in the city or suburbs. But it is a childhood that I won’t give up for the world.