Brian Munashe Chaonwa is experiencing every kid’s dream – to live on an African safari reserve. He, his parents and his sister, Anna, live inside the property of River Bend Lodge in Addo Elephant National Park in South Africa where his father, Darlington Chaonwa, works as a guide. Yes, lions live there too. The 7-year-old tells suitcases&strollers what it’s like to wake up to zebras right in your front garden and elephants drinking from your water tanks and why you should do an African safari with kids too.
How long have you lived in Addo?
Since birth. I was born in Addo.
What is so special about living in Addo?
I see animals every day and I love it. I get meet a lot of people at my dad’s work place and the area I live is very quiet and not too many people around.
How is your home different to your classmates?
I like it because in the area where most of my classmates come from there are lots of people, lots of cars and a lot of crime and at my place it’s safe and quiet.
What is your favourite animal?
I like elephants, lions and mongoose. I like elephants because they are so big and gentile and lions as well because every time I see them they are always sleeping. (But my dad said lions are very dangerous.)
What kinds of interesting animals can you see in front of your house?
Every day when I wake up I see a lot of animals like zebras, ostriches, warthog and a lot of birds. Sometimes I see some elands and buffaloes passing our house.
What is the most common animal that you see regularly come up to the house?
I normally see warthogs, red hartebeest, ostriches and zebras all the time. There are a lot in our reserve.
Which of these is your favourite?
Red hartebeest and zebras because they never run away from me and if I walk close to the fence with my dad they are never scared.
Do you ever get wild animals coming very close to the house? If so, what do you do?
During the day we do not normally get animals in our fence [to our house] but sometimes, if elephants are around and someone forgets to close the gate, we do get single boy elephants coming to drink from our rain water tanks. I think they love the water and at night my dad and I sometimes see porcupines and polecats. We do not chase them away; we just make sure we do not disturb. As for the elephants, we keep the gate open until he walks out then we will close it so that he does not come back.
Do you worry about lions?
My dad and I are worried about the lions. I am not allowed to play around my garden without adult supervision and if I see any lion my dad said I must tell our maid to phone him if ever the lions are at our house and we must stay in the house.
What about snakes?
We do get a lot of snakes especially in summer when the weather is hot. My dad said my sister and I should always run away from snakes and we must not walk in the tall grass. I must call him as soon as we see any snake around our house or in the house and he will help us to be safe.
Which animals are the naughtiest?
Monkeys are the naughty ones because they are always coming to try and open our rubbish bins and they are not scared of the electric fence. Dad always keeps our bins locked so that they do not get used to coming to our house.
Which animals are the noisiest?
Black backed jackals as they normally call each other at night when they look for one another.
Have you taken any animals as pets?
Since I live inside the park or game area my dad is not allowed to keep or buy any other animal as a pet at our house. I grew up in the park and I have never had a pet before. I wish I could have one.
Why do you think people should go on an African safari with kids?
People should come and see the wild animals as they are living in a natural habitat and they will learn a lot from the guides who take them out and teach them. All animals are living freely and they look to be so happy without people disturbing them. Also Addo has got very interesting bush and a good history about how elephants started and the way they were killed in the early days.
To read more about Addo Elephant National Park, click on the suitcases&strollers story here.