Kids Say the Darndest Things…About African Safaris

Knowing we were going to be in Africa, we started researching the possibility of going on a safari. We’d had a number of world traveler friends recommend it, telling us we couldn’t go to the continent without having the classic safari experience. So, we began pricing it out…and GULP. Flights between African nations are surprisingly expensive and there’s really no such thing as a bargain safari. After a lot of research and discussion, we finally decided to do it. This could be the only opportunity we’d ever have to do something like this with our girls, and we decided it was an investment in their education. We’d turn it into the mother-of-all school field trips.

As our safari adventure drew closer, I started to get a little nervous about it. Not about animal attacks or malarial mosquitoes, but that the whole thing could be a whopping disappointment. After all the money spent and travel endured to get there, would it be the amazingly memorable experience we hoped it would be? Or would we grimace in the future every time we thought about how much money we’d dropped on a trip that wound up being just so-so? I think our photos answer that question pretty clearly.
Needless to say, this was a truly amazing experience for all of us. We learned so much from our guides during our time in Kruger National Park and the Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. Since learning was the focus of the trip, this first post about our time in South Africa is dedicated to sharing knowledge. Here are a few facts Em, Liv and Alison thought you should know.

Emily’s Lesson

  • Dung beetles roll poop into balls, lay their eggs in it, and roll it into a hole they’ve dug. Then they die.
  • Leopards always climb trees face down, which is different from every other cat on earth. The rest back their way down tail first.
  • Lions can use the road to their advantage when they’re hunting. The animals they hunt have hooves, so if the lions chase them toward the road the prey will slip and they will be easier to catch.
  • There is a symbiotic relationship between animals. In the water, turtles remove ticks and other parasites from animals like hippos and zebras. Out of the water, oxpecker birds to the same thing for rhinos, elephants and giraffes.
  • When a termite mound has holes in it, that means it’s inactive because the rain has washed away the soil and the termites aren’t there to rebuild.
  • Ostrich babies are adorable. At two weeks old they are as big as a duck. If you scramble an ostrich egg it’s equal to about 24 chicken eggs.
  • The weaver birds are small, yellow birds. The male birds weave the nests and if the female doesn’t like it, she will refuse it, sometimes destroy it, and force her mate to start over.
  • The difference between a white rhino and a black rhino is that a white rhino has a flat mouth because it eats grass and a black rhino has a pointed mouth because it eats leaves.

Emily and a lion
Liv’s Lesson

  • Zebras make snorting noises to warn the rest of their family possible danger is near.
  • If you see a big animal hole on the ground and there aren’t any sticks, leaves or cobwebs at the opening, then you need to back away because it is probably active.
  • You can make a toothbrush out of a thin, bendy branch.
  • You can make rope by stripping bark off certain trees and tying it in consecutive knots.
  • When birds are in shock, like when they fly into a window, they will usually have their beaks open.
  • Rhinos are getting poached because some Asian nations use their horns for medicine, even though its the same stuff as your fingernail. (So why can’t they just chew their own fingernails?)
  • Different vultures have different things they eat on dead animals. Some vultures, called “can openers” rip the skin, others eat only certain muscles.
  • Impalas are called “McDonalds” by the guides because there are so many of them and they are often an easy meal for lions, cheetahs and other predators.
  • Honey badgers don’t actually eat honey. They eat the honey bee larva and a lot of other things. They are actually really vicious. They’re omnivores and they dig a lot, so at the rehab center their enclosure was a total disaster.
  • Hyenas smell super bad.

Liv with an eagle
Ali’s Lesson

  • The palm trees can have nests of tiny birds. These birds aren’t very smart because they keep running into our window. But even if a bird hits a window it can still fly. It just gets a little stunned for a while.
  • You can make a whistle out of a leaf. But it’s kind of hard to do it and only my mom learned how to.
  • If birds go into the swimming pool they will drown. We buried it in toilet paper.
  • You can tell a baby zebra by its footsteps. Also, you can tell a giraffe by its footsteps because their feet are HUGE.
  • It takes a really long time to shake all the egg stuff out of an ostrich egg.
  • You can make toothpaste by getting the ash of a certain tree and mixing it with water and then you brush your teeth with it.
  • You can’t walk up to an ostrich nest when the ostriches are there because they run very fast and if they saw us they would run after us.
  • You can see a lot of animals sitting in a Jeep. Not the animals actually sitting in the Jeep. We are looking at the animals. From a Jeep.
  • There’s this kind of bird that has a really wide spot on its neck and a red beak and it makes a weird noise that sounds like a drum.
  • There is this bird that thinks he’s a human. They kept bringing him girl birds to mate with, but it didn’t work because he tried to kill them. So, that’s not good.
  • Sometimes animals get injured and then they get helped. But sometimes they can’t go back out to the wild, then they have to stay there and you get to pet them because they’re tame. Like there was this bird that had a broken wing and couldn’t go back and he really liked humans and if he tried to give you a stick it meant he wanted to mate with you.
  • Hyenas look like they’re smiling at you and it’s gross. And also, they will pee and poop in water and then sit in it so they smell horrible.
  • You can tell a boy lion is really old because he has hair on his elbows.
  • Girl lions always eat last and the boys eat first, but it should go the other way. Unless it’s a nice dad like my dad and then the boy will want to eat last.
  • Baby rhinos can die if their momma or someone else isn’t with them the whole entire day because they can die from freaking out.
  • I got to pet a cheetah.

So that’s a few fun facts from the girls about our safari. More to come soon about the people we met, the places we stayed and what we learned about South Africa.

About the Author

Tracey Carisch

Mom, wife, friend and change agent traveling the world with my family to learn our place in it. After spending a career in organizational change management and community initiative implementation, I put my career on hold for our family's trip around the world. In April of 2014 we sold almost everything we own, put the rest in a storage container, and departed on this journey. While my husband continued his software development work to financially support our trip, I planned and documented our adventure, homeschooled our three daughters, and found volunteer work opportunities for us to do in the communities we visit. Now that we've returned to the U.S., I'm completing book about our family's adventure and our lessons learned.

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  1. The photos and the dialogue compliment each other so well, and provide so much about all you are seeing, learning and experiencing but it’s especially great to hear from the girls and see how much they are learning! ( Love the jeep animals too!)

  2. I am so glad I found out about your blog! I knew of Brian through getBuilt Chattanooga Crossfit, and I have read all of your posts up to now in a few days. Incredible! I just got back from a trip to South Africa and it was the trip of a lifetime. So glad you decided to go on a safari! I went to MalaMala, Londolozi, (both game reserves) Cape Town, and Zimbabwe. I can’t wait to read where else you are headed. Makes me want to sell everything and do the same thing!

    1. Great to hear from you Ansley. I really miss the getBuilt family. I’m sorry to say, I’m completely out of crossfit shape. I find working out on the road to be extremely hard to do, so I just run a few times a week.

      Sounds like you were able to see much more of SA than we were (already in Thailand, although we have a few more posts on SA coming). I’m very disappointed in our planning that we didn’t see Cape Town, and a few other African Nations. Ethiopia was easily the largest cultural difference we’ve had to date, and we loved it.

      If you like to travel there is no better way, than to slow travel. It is a hard thing to describe, but it feels oddly normal. No part of the process was difficult, and I can’t recommend it more.

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