02 March, 2012

Wilderness camps with the Cape Leopard Trust

Drive away from our home in Porterville, North towards Clanwilliam and up into the Cederberg mountains, where endangered Cape leopards live. Since September last year Jurg has been volunteering with the Cape Leopard Trust. In January he went to help refresh the Toktokkie Camp before this year’s children arrived for their wilderness camps.

Klipbokberg on the road to Ceres

Matthew and Quinton preparing Toktokkie camp

This is all off grid. The power to install the solar panel comes via a generator. Lights and the fridge will be run with the new solar panel. No cell phone reception (but a satellite phone for emergencies).

Toktokkie Camp
Kitchen and campfire with boma
Showers and loos

Tucked in amongst the poplar trees are a kitchen and a campfire. Further away are showers and long drop loos. After lots of hard work in the blast of summer heat, the first group of children arrive. Matthew Dowling CLT’s Environmental Educator is sorting children into tents.

Matthew and children at the tents

Children from private schools pay the fee, but children from farm schools are subsidised. CLT’s Education Programme is sponsored by the National Lottery. The Firsts arrive with their own hiking boots, the Thirds use boots discounted by Hi-Tec and Cape Union Mart while they are at the camp.

‘Children from the local Cederberg school of Eselbank were entranced as they witnessed both the soaring flight of the parent eagles, and the Black Eagle chick perched on its cliff nest’.

‘Wupperthal School is situated in the heart of the Cederberg, and it is therefore particularly important to us that these children are involved in our programme. A highlight for us was when they broke into song in the magnificent Wolfberg Cracks, in awe of the space and the beauty’.

‘To see a group of teenage city girls bundu-bashing through thick vegetation on a mountain slope is very satisfying to an environmental educator. There’s something about not being on a path that wakes up all the senses and this, in itself, is a fantastic lesson in awareness. The Hout Bay girls eco-club were searching for a leopard kill site using the GPS data collected from one of the collared leopard’s GPS collars. The aim was to find the remains of the animal that the leopard ate’.

‘We planned a lovely challenge for the children from the Dwarsrivier School who are already familiar with the natural surroundings in the Cederberg through their walks with us – we took them for an overnight hike where they had to carry their own sleeping things and sleep out in a cave on the mountain. The children were so excited to be proper hikers, and set out full of giggles and determination, leaning on the walking sticks they had just made’.

Shower at Toktokkie wilderness camp

Washing hands at Toktokkie Camp

For your shower you get 20 litres of water. Fill your chosen mix of hot and cold in the bucket, then hoist it up. No water restrictions '3 minute showers'. You HAVE only 20 litres in your bucket. Refill and hoist again.

Children drawing a Cape leopard skull

Elizabeth is a trained Waldorf teacher. Her husband Quinton does the research, trapping and collaring. To book wilderness camps for a school class or a ‘family’ of 6 children, please email Elizabeth.

Matjiesrivier old school with Agapanthus and Eucalyptus trees

Toktokkie Camp is at Matjiesrivier run in partnership with CapeNature.

Grootrivier Pass heading for Ceres

The little yellow Land Rover heads for home, until the next Cape leopard calls to him!

If a wilderness camp in South Africa is a dream beyond reach,  Meredith creates schoolyard habitats in Texas. With Carole Sevilla Brown and my circle gardening for wildlife I-believe-that-children-are-our-future.

Quotes are from the CLT’s  Annual Report for 2011.

Pictures by Jurg and CLT
words by Diana of  Elephant's Eye 
- wildlife gardening in Porterville, near Cape Town in South Africa
(If you mouse over brown text, it turns shriek pink. Those are my links.) 


  1. Love it! These experiences are valuable and teach kids to be careful with their resources.

  2. Fantastic experience for the children, something they will remember for the rest of their lives.

  3. Hi Diana - I will be hiking with my Scouts tomorrow across what will be a little chilly and possibly wet South downs. Your world seems both totally alien and yet also familiar. I love that moment when teenagers both revert to being children, dropping the cool act, and yet become more responsible at the same time and start thinking about the world around them.

  4. What a great program--the class size looks perfect, too. I remember doing this kind of thing a couple of times in school, but always with 30 other kids. Either we couldn't hear the instructor or we couldn't see the rock forms or we were stepping on the plants...

  5. Sarah - those mountain tops will be dusted with snow in winter.

  6. Wow, this camp looks amazing! And what a wonderful experience for all of those kids to experience nature so closely. I want to come :)

  7. This is the solution for children of the internet: haul your own water! Seriously, we need more camps like this.

  8. What a wondeful thing to do for the kids.

  9. Diana this camp is so wonderful. I remember going to camp as a child but it was never this nice. I love how these folks are bringing nature to these children..

  10. That next to last photo is so pretty, and I love the decorative paint job around the sinks!

  11. Fabulous Diana! An important and wonderful experience for children and women of any age. My son went to the Waldorf School, so I can imagine Elizabeth is very talented as a teacher. The landscape is daunting!

  12. Carol - daunting is when the radio collar says - the leopard is up there - no track to follow -bundu-bashing called for.

  13. What a lovely insight into your life in South Africa. I have promised myself I must come and visit one day. My grandfather and his sisters were born in Green Point, Cape Town and I want to find out more information about their lives there.

  14. Now that is a camp worth attending! What a great experience for the children! Hopefully, what they learn will impact their decisions as adults.

  15. Today someone asked me what sustainability needed to take off more and I said public education. Very glad to know camps like this exist!

  16. Oh my goodness. What an wonderful nature experience this must be for kids. I wouldn't mind it either.

  17. wonderful work being done in a beautiful part of the world. My visit to Wupperthal over 20 years ago - combined with the evocative words and music of my favourite Afrikaans art-song - make it one of the most romantic (in the emotive sense) destinations in South Africa...

  18. This sounds like such a worthwhile endeavor...fun, interesting, and educational. I like those 3-minute showers.

  19. Brings back wonderful memories of being a camp counselor with 4-H groups. We had the Santa Cruz mountains... your wilderness is true wilderness. Beautiful! Love the photos and article.

  20. Such a wonderful initiative!


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Photographs are from Diana Studer or Jurg Studer.
My Canon PowerShot A490

If I use your images or information, it will be clearly acknowledged with either a link to the website, or details of the book. If you use my images or words, I expect you to acknowledge them in turn.

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