The South African exchange has continued for more than 16 years and is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for those Year 7 children who are fortunate enough to go. This year the trip certainly did not disappoint.
As soon as our group touched down in Cape Town, we were greeted by children from Rondebosch Boys and Herschel Girl’s Schools, who were excited to be spending the next 10 days with their visitors.
The children were taken on lots of amazing trips. Firstly, they went by cable car to Table Mountain, where the St John’s tradition of creating a fun music video continued – this year the children created a dance video to Uptown Funk, which can be found on our school YouTube channel and is really worth a watch.
The trip continued with visits to the Aquarium, the Springbok Museum, a crazy golf course, ostrich farm and the Cool-Runnings Toboggan Park. We took a city bus tour and there was a fascinating trip to Robben Island where our tour guide, a previous inmate of the prison, called Jama, shared his stories of incarceration.
The pupils also enjoyed Segway tours in the Spier vineyard and visited Eagle Encounters where the children adopted an eagle, which they named Eddie. There was a boat trip to Seal Island, before heading along the most idyllic coastal route to Boulders Beach, to eat lunch with the penguins, and then on to Cape Point, the most southerly point in Africa.
St John’s pupils were humbled by their visit to the biggest shanty town in Cape Town during a township tour, where they visited the local school to take them sport equipment, kindly donated by our exchange schools. The children got to take part in school lessons and played a game of football against children their age.
The next stage of the adventure took the group on a two hour plane journey to East London, where they were greeted by Stirling Primary School. Here St John’s children were immersed further into the South African culture and school life, learning Afrikaans, and playing the Marimba and games of rugby.
They also had a few days at the beach where they took part in Jonginenge activities, which included surfing, sandboarding, canoeing and rock climbing. All of the children had a fantastic time learning to surf and everyone managed to stand up at least once (even Mr Hancock!).
The pinnacle of the trip was the three-day safari to Inkwenkwezi Game Reserve. We stayed in Areena, a family-friendly holiday park, two minutes from the reserve. Here the children took part in team building activities and made the most of the outdoor pool and play areas. They even had an interaction with Abby, the local, friendly Giraffe.
The safari game drives were an experience like no other and the children managed to spot: giraffes, zebras, lions, springbok, rhinos, wildebeests, blesboks and ostriches. They all appreciated how incredible it was to see these amazing animals in their habitat and they even got to feed and stroke the elephants at a special interaction.
The children spent their final days with their host parents who were fantastic and looked after each child like their own. It was a truly wonderful experience for the children and staff that went on the trip and we hope that this exchange continues for many years.
Steph George, teacher of science and girls’ games