I would like to start by saying that I hope all our readers had a wonderful Christmas time and a happy new year! May 2012 be filled with love, happiness and a whole lot of adventures! Maybe a few of you would even visit Elephant Plains again this year! We had a successful 2011 and we are looking forward to a busy 2012.
December turned out to be a scorcher of a month, but at least we also had some very good rains, which turned the surrounding bush into a wall of greenery. If you are on your way to come and visit, I am sure that you would be blown away by all the different shades of green. The other option would be to take a look at our Africam webcam, off course.
We have noticed that there is a small herd of zebra moving around the open area, together with a herd of eleven waterbuck. The reason for this attraction could be the bigger waterhole, as well as the open areas that were recently cleared to the north of the lodge. We also have a hippo visiting the new waterhole and we are delighted that this project has attracted so many animals.
December also brought an interesting twist, with a very unexpected turn, as we had a somewhat unconventional guest in camp! Salayexe the leopard gave birth to her cubs underneath our African Health Spa deck. She kept us on our toes for a few weeks while she stayed underneath the deck, but luckily the deck is closed off towards the rest of the lodge. I must say that this was a cunning plan – she found a safe haven to keep unwanted predators away from her tiny cubs, while being guarded by an electrical fence on the one side and the wooden enclosure towards the rest of the lodge, on the other side. The only way she could come and go was by crossing the fence on the riverbed’s side. We kept the door to the Spa enclosure locked at all times and let the new mom be. As leopards move their den site on a regular basis, we knew that this arrangement would not last very long. We are unsure where exactly her new den site is, but we do know that she moved it to an area outside the camp enclosure. We also had an incident that could have ended in a drama, but turned out to be a story of courage, with a happy ending. Because Salayexe’s new den site is thought to be situated close to the lodge, we see her on a daily basis. A few days ago, Salayexe found a cunning way to use an overhanging branch to enter Etienne and Marlet’s yard at their house. Because they have a three year old son, they keep dogs at the house, especially to warn them if there are snakes in the yard. They are also great friends of little Etienne – he is the only child growing up in the northern part of the Sabi Sand! The dogs have never caused any problems as the yard is fully closed off with an electrified fence and electrified gates. But, be as that may, Salayexe came to inspect the yard that she was never able to enter before. The dogs, being very protective of little Etienne who was playing on the lawn, started chasing her away. She turned around and grabbed Muis, the little Jack Russell. The barking of the other dogs must have given her a fright as she let go and left the yard just as quickly as she entered.
Muis was rushed to Hluvukani Veterinary Clinic and five eager students got to work on her immediately. They did such a great job that she will fully recover! We would like to thank them for their help in this regard. If they could save a dog that was bitten by a leopard, while they are still undergoing training, I am sure that they will all make wonderful Veterinarians in the future. As an extra precaution, we have decided to redo the fencing and gates – they will be changed to a 3.4 metre high enclosure – the standard type of boma fencing that is used to keep leopards in when relocating them. This one would obviously just keep them out! The dogs have been moved into town until the new fence is up. There are not many dogs that live to tell the tale of an encounter with a leopard, but Muis Swart is one of them!
We had a lovely time celebrating Christmas and New Years at the lodge. We had a full a camp for both these occasions and I am sure that our guests enjoyed the celebrations. For Christmas we had all the traditional delicacies on the menu, including gammon and turkey. For New Years we had a traditional South African braai. I must say that the lamb’s ribs were a favourite amongst our guests. We ended the old year with traditional song and dance from the Ringetani African Traditional Dance Group. As always, they were very entertaining and we could see that the guests enjoyed this experience immensely.
We have decided to acquire the services of a Food and Beverage consultant. We are excited to welcome her to the lodge early in 2012 and we are looking forward to her new ideas in the kitchen.
With all the recent rains the lodge itself is looking good, especially the original camp garden. The rondavels in the original camp are not as big as the luxury suites, but have never been called small. They are a spacious, value for money option for travellers that would rather stay a few nights longer, than to have a separate lounge area and a view over the open area – which are the main differences between the two accommodation options. The summer house in the original garden played host to a number of life changing moments lately. We were asked to prepare a romantic setting for a private dinner. All I can say is that she said yes when he asked the big question!
We have recently purchased a trap camera, which is a special type of motion detection camera that takes still pictures the moment that there is movement in front of it. This camera is weather resistant and we are moving it to different locations in the bush, taking pictures of the animals. We will start sharing these with you over the next couple of weeks.
Congratulations to all our staff members who celebrated their birthdays during the month of December. Annelize who works in accounts and reservations celebrated her birthday on the 15th. It seems like December is a kitchen birthday month with Roxanne, our head chef celebrating hers on the 20th. Glory, one of our cooks, and Linah, who works in the scullery, also celebrated their birthdays on the 21st and 24th. We hope that the year ahead will be filled with all the best there is!
From my side, I’ve had an amazing year managing this beautiful lodge. I am looking forward to a very successful 2012 as I already have a lot of plans for the lodge in the coming year. I hope to see some familiar faces returning to our piece of paradise. We are looking forward to welcoming you back and also to ensure that our first time visitors return again and again. Last but not least, I would also like to thank all our staff members, who work very hard in order to make Elephant Plains one of the most sought after destinations in the Sabi Sand Wildtuin. You are all great and I am looking forward to another amazing year with all of you!
I now hand you over to Roxanne, for one of the delicious deserts we enjoyed during our New Year’s celebrations. A fresh spin to the all-time classical, Peppermint Crisp Tart.
250 g Soft butter
½ Cup white sugar
2 Cups cake flour
2 Tins Caramel Treat
5 Peppermint Crisps
2 Cups Cream (stiffly whipped)
5ml Vanilla Extract
100g Castor Sugar
Serve and enjoy!
That’s all from our side for this month! We hope to welcome you back to the lodge soon!