Johannesburg - Children love the Eco House at Madikwe Safari Lodge.

It contains a wealth of natural exhibits in the form of skeletons, bones, horns, snake skins and botanical specimens, gathered from the Madikwe reserve.

It is home to a library of reference books, frames and glass cases containing live snakes, scorpions and spiders. It’s reality eco-training for the digital generation.

Along one wall is a row of skulls, the favourite ice-breaker for rangers such as Andre Nel and Stephanie Kulak when they meet each day’s intake of wildlife fans.

“Okay, let’s see who can tell me which animals these are just from their teeth,” says the ranger.

“Lion! Leopard! Warthog! Cheetah!” choruses the class, showing that they spend quite a bit of time watching Animal Planet and the Discovery channel.

“Kids learn early,” says ranger Kenneth Nyathi from North West, who learnt about its trees, leaves and herbs as a child.

Nyathi’s grandfather was a nyanga, an expert in traditional medicines, and to this ranger Madikwe is more than a zoological reserve – it’s a natural pharmacy and food reserve deserving as much attention as the big cats and rhinos.

Madikwe Safari Lodge is a 4½-hour drive from Joburg and is in a non-malaria area. Visit [email protected] - Saturday Star