I think I can safely say that the summer’s heat is over and that autumn is arriving. It’s strange how it never feels as though the seasons are changing, until one day you realize that it’s already dark by six o’clock in the evening. On drive in the mornings, the rangers always wear short sleeves during summertime and then out of the blue one morning, it’s pretty cold. The vegetation is still green though and we’ve had loads of wonderful sightings. We are already seeing a lot more elephants drinking in front of camp as all the pools of water in the bush have dried up, forcing the animals to use the waterholes now. So life is just that little bit easier, as on game drive the rangers often find animals at, or at least close, to the waterholes. With the cats, however, there is still a lot of tracking involved, because on most days the big cats enjoy resting in very dense vegetation. The art of tracking is amazing. There have been times when I tracked with our trackers and I truly got blown away by the manner in which they are able to continue following tracks, especially if they go through thick vegetation or over very hard ground. For the untrained eye it’s very hard to spot the track, but as for our guys, well it’s another story. You see them take their foot and mark the back of the track and move on, until you start thinking there is no way we are going to find this animal… All of a sudden you’ll get the hand signal to stop, and right there in front of your eyes would be the animal you have been following. Mind blowing indeed!
A lot of guests always ask what time of the year is not too busy for us. To tell you the truth, we don’t really have a low season. We are always running at a fairly high occupancy, regardless of it being summer or winter. Being a 24 bed camp is a very comfortable number of guests to have. Having such a small amount of people, you get to interact with everyone. Guests are not just a number that come and go and are forgotten. We’ve had guests that have returned from last being with us in 2005 and I still remember them. That’s what makes a small camp great! All the guests were very happy with the sightings that they got to view this month. Salayexe and her cub had a few kills right next door to the camp. The one Breakaway Tsalala lioness has been seen moving around the front of the rooms in the dry river bed. We suspect that she is hiding her newborn cub in the lush thickets of the dry river bed. So our guests are spending a lot of time on their viewing decks, trying to get a glimpse of them.
We’ve welcomed Devon Becker as our new ranger this month. He is doing very well and has quickly learned all the game drive roads in our traversing area. The truth is that learning the roads in our traversing area can be quite tricky. There are no high mountains to use as a land marks. But after a few drives you start getting used to some of the main roads in the reserve. A ranger needs at least 20 drives to get used to the roads, so you can’t just give a ranger a map and guests and say “enjoy!” What also helps is the fact that our trackers know the roads very well, so even if a new ranger still forgets the name of a certain road, his tracker would be able to help him out. A funny story a few years ago with one of the other lodges in the north, was that the new ranger drove together with a new tracker so they were still unsure of all the roads. They found a leopard on their first game drive, and it was indeed the first leopard that this ranger ever saw in the wild. Being super excited seeing his first leopard and being the one who found it, he screamed over the radio that he had found a leopard. We all thought this to be great news and asked if we could join his leopard sighting. Well! He had absolutely no idea where he was, so this made life a little interesting. We all had a good chuckle and went out not to find animals, but to find the lost ranger with his amazing leopard sighting. We did find him after a short time later and enjoyed a great sighting. The best part of it all was that the ranger did not feel embarrassed about his situation, he was just very proud as he found one of Africa’s most beautiful cats. I sat and watched his excitement and it reminded all of us in the sighting why we love being in the bush so much.
Dawie is now doing game drives permanently at Elephant Plains and he has already received a lot of compliments. Dawie has been with us for just over two and a half years now, and in that time he went on game drives with the other rangers, plus did a lot of work on the roads. Doing road maintenance means that you literally get to know the roads like the back of your hand. Mostly when we are doing road clearing, it involves cutting overhanging branches that end up brushing up against the side of the vehicle. You walk up and down all the roads for days on end. So by the time you are finished with the maintenance, you know exactly where every rock and special tree on that road is.
Some of our rangers did their Advanced Rifle Shooting this month. The entire exercise is very nerve racking, yet exciting at the same time. It consists of having to load your rifle with five rounds then unload the rifle, blind folded. You then shoot a target on your own time at fifteen meters. The following drill is to shoot one shot in the bull’s eye at fifteen meters, then ten and lastly at five meters. Then it starts to get difficult, you do a whole lot of speed shooting. The shooting part is fine; it’s remembering the whole sequence that you need to perform that makes it tricky. Then the last shoot is a picture of a life sized lion dragged on wheels to simulate a real charge down by a lion. It is very difficult, but as long as you think through the whole charge quickly in your head you should do fine. It is important to be confident with your shooting, as you might need this skill anytime when out in the bush.
On the 27th of this month we had the privilege to be part of the Sabi Sand Wildtuin’s anti-poaching initiative. The Sabi Sand, in an effort to fight the high incidence rate of rhino poaching in South Africa, has decided to make use of the services of the Rhino Rescue Project. The rhino’s horn is treated by infusing it with a compound made up of depot ectoparasiticides and inedible dye. This contaminates the horn and makes it useless for ornamental and medicinal use. The treatment, however, has no adverse effects on the rhino itself. The rhino was treated on Elephant Plains and we got to witness the process, which was an amazing experience. Etienne and Marlet Swart have decided to sponsor another treatment as these are entirely dependent on fundraising. The Elephant Plains rangers have also decided to take initiative in holding a fund raiser between themselves and other rangers in our area, in order to sponsor another rhino. This is a project very close to our hearts and we would like to do everything in our power to ensure the future of our beautiful rhinos. If any of our readers are interested to join the initiative by sponsoring funds for the future of rhinos at Elephant Plains Game Lodge, as well as the rest of the Sabi Sand, please feel free to contact Marlet Swart for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org.
To all our guests that celebrated their birthdays this month, we hope you had a fantastic day filled with love and laughter. May your future hold many more joyful days! We had a busy month with all the birthdays at lodge. Yoldah celebrated her big day on the 6th. You will rarely see Yoldah as she is hard at work in the laundry. She manages the laundry, with the help of her four best friends, the Speed Queen machines. She is a very delightful person that always has a smile on her face. I take my hat off to her for the amount of laundry she does on a daily basis. Sidness had her birthday on the 23rd. She works at Etienne and Marlet’s house and also helps look after the very energetic little man, Etienne junior. Clement, one of our trackers, also celebrated his birthday on the 23rd. Just goes to show you how time flies, Etienne junior turned five on the 26th. The little man is starting to grow up very fast indeed. Last but not least Louis celebrated his birthday on the 28th of this month. I am very proud of Louis. He started at the lodge as a junior ranger and five years later he is our new assistant Head Ranger. He has come a very long way in the past few years. Well done Louis! Just shows you what hard work and determination can achieve.
I now hand you over to our Head Chef Linda Van Heerden, for the delicious recipe of the month.
This month’s recipe is an Herbed Cucumber Salad, a fresh addition to any meal.
Makes 8 side servings
Combine the yogurt, lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, sugar, salt, pepper, garlic and herbs. Combine the cucumber and onion, drizzle with the yogurt mixture. Toss to coat. Arrange on a serving platter and serve cold.
Well, that’s all from my side this month. Have a good one!