REVIEW | About that one time I got to be the ‘rich aunt’ to my niece and nephew for a weekend

  • I was recently in Bakubung Bush Lodge in Pilanesberg National ParkNorth West, with my niece and nephew.
  • It was their first vacation ever and it was wonderful to experience it with them.
  • As I write this, it feels good to relive those moments with you, but aAs much as I was allowed to be the “rich aunt” at the weekend, it wasn’t about me – it was about the little ones.

The one weekend that I got to be that “rich aunt” that I always imagined I would someday be and impress my niece and nephew finally happened.

I’m not planning on having a nice weekend with my niece and nephew over me but listen to me; in their eyes i can afford “nice things”.

Tshimo is six and Kea is nine. They didn’t get much sleep the night before our trip to Bakubung Bush Lodge in Pilanesberg National Park in the northwest. Her excitement kept her going. Running a few minutes late to pick up cheeky Tshimo, she called and asked, “Why are you so slow, Aunt B?”

And Kea seemed to be pacing the house every two hours at night waiting for my brother to drop him off at my place so the vacation they had been waiting for could begin.

Travel, free time, family
Tshimo and Kea were beaming on their first ever vacation. All images by the author

I fed on their energy. The drive from Johannesburg was supposed to take two and a half hours, but during the drive I could hear murmuring from behind. They discussed what they wanted to eat.

Tshimo wanted sushi and Kea wanted the biggest burger McDonald’s has, with nuggets on the side. I hoped they didn’t think I was a “rich aunt” when they wheeled a cart full of weekend snacks through the supermarket because my bank balance wouldn’t add up – but I kept playing pretend with them.

After the detours and approved card payments, we headed home for the weekend.

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As we entered the lodge, we were greeted by an elephant. The look on their faces was priceless. That’s when it dawned on me that at her age I’d never gone on vacation – maybe a picnic or a movie, but not two nights in a 4-star destination.

And they’ve never been on vacation either, so it was humbling for me to experience that with them. I can’t count the number of times I say “Woooow!” heard. This weekend as soon as we checked into our room, a standard queen bed, bath, shower, wi-fi connection and beautiful view from the terrace.

Just as we were settling in, a lady from housekeeping came in to get our beds ready for sleep and put toffees on our beds before the dinner buffet.

Travel, free time, family
An elephant during our afternoon game drive. picture of the author

I won the “Aunt Olympiad” here. I thought her excitement would wear off after a few hours, but that was all wishful thinking. I had to force her to sleep, just after 11pm.

On our first morning at the lodge, Kea woke me up at 7am. “Aunt B, we’ll be late for breakfast.”

I was so annoyed but, hey, I was the cool aunt, remember? So I played it cool.

“Kea tsoga” (I wake up), I said calmly. The breakfast buffet was paradise for Kea. He loves food and I was so happy to see him try what he wanted.

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It was funny how he criticized the food while clearing his plate.

“I like this, but not that” … even the chef heard him pointing to the potatoes on the buffet table and saying, “This potato is tasteless, and here is hot potato.”

I was embarrassed but it was too funny. And the chef took it like a champ. He offered him spicier fried potatoes, which he enjoyed.

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While Tshimo asked the chef for sushi, which was ridiculous, he showed her cooked fish garnished with olives. I loved the fish, but Aunty’s confident princess opted for chicken. Safe use!

The only disappointing thing about the meal was how much I ate. Although the friendly staff said I didn’t eat much, I can tell you the scale says otherwise.

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Travel, free time, family
Playtime was fun. picture of the author

Our Saturday was full of activity. We had a long day ahead of us.

Breakfast, pool, game drive, bush fire dinner and back at the lodge. I’ve been on many game drives and I always get to see a lion. I was hoping we’d see one in Pilanesberg, but we didn’t. Apparently they had been busy with a kill for the afternoon.

But we did see cheetahs feasting on what appeared to be a wildebeest leg. We also saw elephant, zebra, a jackal, impala, giraffe, an owl, rhino and hippo. It was an incredible experience in the wild.

Travel, free time, family
animals in the wild. picture of the author

I looked good at the pool, but I didn’t put my foot in the water. I wear my sunscreen and a hat. With a drink in hand, of course, watching the kids and saying “Be careful” every now and then.

You made new friends so easily while swimming. I was so happy to see other kids at the lodge because I was worried that this aunt who usually spends hours with them wanted a grown up drink and chill but couldn’t.

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Our last day, Sunday, was gloomy.

They obviously didn’t want to leave. They wanted to go on another game drive at 06:00 and swore that waking up at 05:00 would not be stressful. I wasn’t too sure if that was possible for me, but knowing that this was her best vacation ever, I had to push myself.

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Our booking came with a free game drive and the least I could do was not let it go to waste.

Vicky at the front desk was kind and gracious enough to offer to wake me up at 5am but the room phone somehow disconnected. I promise it wasn’t me. But guess what? Shortly after five a gentleman knocked on the door.

“Mam, we’ve tried calling you but your phone seems to be disconnected. We just wanted to wake you up so you’d be on time for the game drive,” he said.

Travel, free time, family
Sunrise during our game drive. picture of the author

I didn’t know at the time whether to be impressed or disappointed. But looking back, I have to say it was impressive!

After returning from the morning game drive, the children’s last request: “Can we at least go play for the last time?”

We spent some time on the trampoline and swings and made more friends before it was time to leave.

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As I write this, it feels good to relive those moments. I smile at the thought of it.

As much as I needed to look like the “rich aunt,” the truth is, the weekend wasn’t about me. It was about her; The joy of seeing their faces makes me cry.

The little things inspire kids, from hashbrowns to seeing an elephant up close or making new friends and eating their favorite snack. Although I’m far from a rich aunt, at least this weekend they thought I was one.

This aunt was happy to drop her off at her parents’ house even though they weren’t.

Oh, apparently our next trip will be “overseas”. who will tell them

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