When I was young, everyone knew to stay clear of nettles. We also knew if you got stung, to search for a dock leaf to ease the pain.
Children knew the names of the most common birds, could identify several species of trees and flowers and would always be able to tell the difference between a wasp and a bumble bee.
Today many children spend more time indoors than out. Partly due to video games and all the wondrous joys of the internet, partly due to safety concerns. Like most parents we’ve always tried to encourage Alexander to spend more time outside playing and that’s got a lot easier since we recently moved.
Since then he’s taken a new found interest in spotting tiny things like ladybirds or spiders.
And taking encouragement from this I recently booked a Bush survival course for Alexander and some of his friends (as they are currently on school holiday).
The day was billed as an adventure in the bush with the Cashane Junior Rangers, where bushcraft skills, storytelling and nature awareness combine to create an empowering learning experience.
The survival course took place near Magaliesburg, a small town situated below the Witwatersrand mountain range in Gauteng, South Africa. We met Ian and his daughter at the MelonRouge Eatery and Art & Antiques (a must visit when in the neighbourhood) and from there we walked into the bush.
We were taught how to build shelters, work out what the birds were saying to each other and where water can be found (and how to filter it so it usable). We explored the river, went hiking and told each other stories by the campfire. After learning to light their own fire (using only a flint), the children cooked their own lunch. Hotdogs and bananas. If that doesn’t sound too appetising I can assure you it was delicious if you ask me.
After lunch we continued to learn about traps, tracking and so much more and best of all (according to the children) made bows and arrows. Some children even made spears and were taught how to handle them safely!
The children revelled in learning the skills, and the attitude, necessary to feel truly safe and at home in the bush. They absorbed the ‘meta-skills’ for success in any environment, things like: curiosity; communication; problem-solving; awareness; teamwork and responsibility. And they did this all this whilst having the time of their lives, under the careful guidance of Ian and his daughter.
We’ll come back and next time we’d like to spend the night in the bush. Now that will be interesting!
For more information about Cashane Junior Ranger visit their website cashanerangers.com
Ian van der Vyver is a FGASA (Field Guide Association of South Africa) certified guide with a BTech. degree in nature conservation and twenty years experience as a game reserve manager and tour guide.
Ian has worked on several reserves in South Africa and Botswana, guiding locally, in the Limpopo valley and in the Okavango Delta. He has a special interest in wilderness survival and loves sharing his considerable knowledge about the bush with wilderness enthusiasts, especially children.
He has completed several survival courses including the Survival course by WildlifeCampus and the Basic and Advanced Survival course offered by Boswa survival school. Ian holds a level 3 first aid certificate.