At the start of the Easter holidays, 53 students and six staff made a hugely anticipated week long adventure to South Africa.
They were led by Mr Macdonald (faculty head, mathematics) and accompanied by Mrs Dey, Mrs Katsaitis, Miss Smith, Mrs Walker and Mrs Crothers.
Participants all played their part in fundraising activities during the months prior to departure with a jazz/swing evening as well as a ceilidh evening helping to contribute to the itinerary.
Following an 11-hour overnight flight from London Heathrow to Johannesburg, the 59-strong party “hit the ground running” with an immediate tour of the Soweto township, a visit to Nelson Mandela’s former house and a tour of the World Cup Stadium. During the visit to Soweto, students were greeted by local children who provided entertainment and also fascinated their Scottish visitors.
Mrs Dey, ever on duty, took the opportunity to issue the locals with some light reading and Mackie students distributed treats, all of which were very well received.
A poignant visit to the Apartheid Museum was followed by an adrenaline filled visit to Gold Reef City theme park, constructed round a former gold mine. During a gold-pouring demonstration a historical account was provided about how the city of Johannesburg was founded in the gold rush of the late 19th century.
While Mrs Dey, Mrs Walker and Mrs Crothers preferred to take the sedate train tour of the park, Mr Macdonald, Mrs Katsaitis and Miss Smith enjoyed the adrenaline filled “Anaconda” and “Tower of Terror” rides, among others, much to the amusement of students!
The day that followed provided all with unforgettable experiences that will remain in everyone’s hearts.
The morning began with a visit to the UNICEF-supported Senaoane Secondary School in Soweto.
The Mackie party were greeted by the headmaster, who proudly wore his Aberdeen FC shirt with pride. This was definitely going to be a great visit!
The Mackie party handed over donations of stationery, 60 Mackie Academy sweatshirts and 60 t-shirts (old stock of the soon to be revamped uniform kindly donated by a parent). And so the interaction with local school children began.
Mackie students were received to a rapturous welcome where sweets, marshmallows, lollipops were handed out. Pupils from either school were equally fascinated with each other.
The school choir provided some very well rehearsed choral entertainment before the Mackie v Senaoane football match began. Tiredness, heat and exhaustion must have played their part when the Mackie team (well captained by S1 Brodie Stewart) lost 3 - 1 with Mackie’s only goal scored by S5 Chloe Spence. Well done Chloe!
And so the tour continued to Ukutula Lion Park where genetic research and ongoing veterinary study is carried out.
Students were given a guided tour of the white lion enclosures as well as those for hyena, tiger and caracal. Following the tour, Mackie students were given the privilege of interacting with, and holding, the four to six-week-old cubs (gremlins) followed by the slightly more boisterous four to six-month-old cubs (devils) - an opportunity never to be forgotten. Upon departing the park, many students spoke of their desire to revisit Ukutula and carry out volunteer work in the future as they wiped bites and scratches and proudly showed them off!
And onwards the party went to spend the night at Lesedi cultural village which celebrates the cultural traditions of several different peoples of Southern Africa. Students stayed in reproduced traditional (and extremely plush) dwellings and were treated to a rousing variety of tribal dances upon arrival.
The party took the world famous Panorama Route as they made their way to the Kruger National Park. Various stops were made in order to spend time at the stunning Blyde River Canyon (the world’s third deepest canyon), Bourke’s Lock Potholes and an opportunity was given to the Scots to try out their bartering skills at local market stalls! A few bargains were definitely had!
After the long day on the road through the Mpumalanga Panorama Route, there was no let-up once in the hotel. There were six birthdays to celebrate: Ailsa Adams (15), Ramsay Bell (16), Dan McAllister (16), Megan McMillan (18), Mrs Dey (?9) and Mrs Walker (?0)!! What better way for a Scottish group to party than with a ceilidh. The dance-floor was soon filled as all enjoyed dancing the the dashing white sergeant, they stripped the willow in sub-Saharan Africa, and carried out the military two-step with tribal gusto in the Kruger! A few kilts were also donned by the students.
The next day provided no recovery time for tired legs and sore feet. A 5am departure to catch sunrise at the gate of the Kruger National park in anticipation of a full day’s game drive is well worth a place in anyone’s diary - no matter how tired they may be. The large party were split into five open top vehicles as the safari began.
All were well primed and kept their eyes peeled as they ticked off hyena, giraffe, zebras etc in search of the BIG FIVE (elephant, rhino, lion, leopard and buffalo). Indeed most groups managed four out of five with Mrs Katsaitis’ lucky group scoring a full 5/5. Well done them!
At the end of the game drive, the group made their way to Elephant Whispers elephant sanctuary. Here, it was staggering to witness the intelligence, compassionate nature and sheer size of these animals. Even Jamie Berrisford couldn’t come close to a face to face interaction with Tembo, the 3.3m tall largest elephant! Students were treated to a fascinating interaction with the gentle giants where opportunity was given to feel the curious trunks, touch their rough skin, and offer tasty treats.
All had the opportunity to embark on an elephant back ride - once a privilege reserved only for kings.
This exciting tour provided an educational experience in every way through history, culture, nature, geography, and conservation.
A DVD of the trip was made and a celebration evening will be held at Mackie Academy where copies will sold in aid of a cancer charity tomorrow (Friday) at 7.30pm in the assembly hall.
It was another hugely successful Mackie trip of a lifetime where new friendships were forged and experiences had - never to be forgotten. Comment was passed regarding the positive conduct and attitude of pupils during their time in South Africa.
The active participation of pupils before and during this experience was commended by Mr Macdonald and thanks passed to staff and parents/carers for their continued strong support.