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To Party or Not To Party?


The Plan


As my 16th birthday approaches, I got wind of my parents planning a surprise party. They had the details already sketched out – a Luau Party at a Tiki Bar and there was even a guest list. My immediate reaction was a resounding 'Noooooo, please No!!'


The initial ideas (Yep, I found all the inspo on moms Pinterest Boards)


Being a Cambridge International Home schooler, it had been a while since I connected with many of my friends, due to the demands of school and well just my hectic life, I guess. They thought it would be a clever idea to bring everyone together for a celebration. However, as a nature enthusiast and lover of the bush, this is where I genuinely wanted to be.


My idea of a celebration


Throughout our holiday in The Garden Route, I initiated a strategic plan to convince Mom and Dad that returning to the bush was a preferable birthday celebration for me. I was determined to persuade them, no matter what it took. The conversations took place during the long drives along open roads, but all I received was a simple, "We will think about it!" It was time to step up my efforts, but how?


Cocktails & Mocktails


As time passed, I discovered that the venue was already booked for the planned party, accommodation arrangements were being discussed and both the meal and cocktail menus were already in place, requiring me to elevate my game plan. I dedicated some time to work on my justification as to why I believed that opting for a birthday celebration in the bush would be a more meaningful and fulfilling experience for all of us, in comparison to the conventional, brief, and quickly forgotten birthday party.


A bush swimming pool


These were my justifications:

·       Choosing the bush over a traditional birthday party is a true escape from the ordinary. It breaks the mould of conventional celebrations and offers a refreshing and unique way to mark my 16th birthday, making it a more extraordinary and personal experience.


·       Celebrating my 16th birthday in the bush would provide a unique and unforgettable experience that stands out from typical birthday parties. I can celebrate surrounded by the beauty of the African bush where the sights, sounds, and atmosphere of the natural surroundings create lasting memories.


Lippy - A very special leopard on the S56 (2022)


·       Being in the bush allows me to connect with nature on a deeper level. Kruger National Park (where I was pushing to go) is renowned for its rich biodiversity. The tranquillity, wildlife encounters (such as encountering iconic African wildlife, the opportunity to see a plethora of bird species, many of which would be new species) and beautiful landscapes offer a sense of peace and appreciation that is distinct from the often bustling and artificial environment of a party venue meaning that these experiences would create lasting memories that are unparalleled to a conventional birthday celebration.


·       Kruger Park has a very picturesque landscape with unique vegetation and stunning scenery. Exploring the diverse terrain, from dense forests to open savannahs, offers a visual feast that beats the typical party venue settings. Whether it is going on a game drive, having a picnic at the many picnic sites spread far and wide, walking through the camp at night or even stargazing, the activities in the bush can be both thrilling and educational, adding an element of excitement to my birthday celebration.


Peace and serenity at a Kruger hide


·       Unlike the potentially noisy and crowded environment of a birthday party, the Kruger Park provides a serene and peaceful atmosphere. I can enjoy the sounds of nature, the rustling leaves, and the calls of birds – a perfect setting for relaxation and reflection.


·       Celebrating in the bush allows me to spend quality time with my family and loved ones in a more intimate setting. Whether it is around a campfire or during a game drive, simply being away from the distractions of modern life, I can engage in meaningful conversations and share experiences in nature that will strengthen my connections and create deeper lasting bonds.


The hide looking out onto the waterhole at Punda Maria


·       Opting for a bush experience aligns with environmental awareness and my conservation values. It promotes an appreciation for wildlife and ecosystems, fostering a sense of responsibility towards the natural world, and in turn making it both enjoyable and intellectually stimulating. I mean who choses education over partying? They have got to be impressed with this one.


·       And finally, as a wildlife photographer, I can capture unique moments in nature. The images I capture can become cherished memories that last a lifetime, offering a more enduring and personal way to remember my 16th birthday. Unlike the social and often bustling environment of a birthday party, wildlife photography offers moments of quiet reflection. As you patiently wait for the perfect shot or immerse yourself in the natural surroundings, you can find a peaceful and introspective atmosphere but what is more, the images I capture can be shared with my friends and family, allowing them to experience my unique birthday celebration. This sharing aspect adds a social element to the experience without the need for a traditional party.


The beautiful birdlife of Kruger Park


Armed with my justifications, I convened a family meeting to present my case. It was time to lay out my reasoning and hope that it would sway my parents in favor of my preference. With heightened anxiety, knowing the importance of my delivery, I poured my heart out. Mom and Dad attentively listened, providing me the opportunity to express my thoughts fully. After putting everything on the table, I anxiously awaited their response.


Mom initiated the conversation with a surprising, "Well, actually, my love!" My heart skipped a beat – what was she going to say? Please don't tell me it's too late to change plans. I held my breath as Dad joined in, "We hadn't realized it earlier, but last week we noticed that your birthday falls just a couple of days before the Easter weekend this year. We've decided to scrap the party idea, and instead, we're taking you to Punda Maria for your birthday."


Punda Maria Rest Camp, Kruger National Park


The plans have been altered, and much to my surprise, I did not even need to present my justifications. Instead, we are heading to Kruger Park for my birthday – not only to my favorite place in the world but also to my new favorite area, up North. I am ecstatic and can't wait to share my experiences with all of you.


The moral of this story is that being part of a family who are genuine nature and photography enthusiasts, just like myself, makes all the difference.

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