There is not a pale piece of grass in sight as the bush is very lush; green and dense as far as the eye can see! November is one of the best months for us, as this is the time of year when we welcome the majority of all the new babies. The very first juvenile impalas, warthogs and wildebeest were born a little later than last year, but with the arrival of all these babies the bush feels more alive than ever! These little ones keep us entertained by running and jumping all over the show. With the wonderful rain and the warmer temperatures, we also welcomed the return of the Woodland Kingfishers. Game viewing was just brilliant this month and we also had awesome night time animal sightings like porcupine, bush baby, genet, civet and white tailed mongoose, just to name a few. Another surprise this month was the cheetah sightings we had. It was really amazing to spend time with them! For November, we had 53mm rain and the average maximum temperature was 30°C.
We are so fortunate and spoiled with the leopard sightings in our area. The leopard that stole the limelight this month was Shadow, the female. She was also making life very difficult because she went into hiding a lot, but for good reason on her part. The one afternoon drive she was seen drinking water at one of the waterholes in her territory and after quenching her thirst she rested in the shade of a nearby tree. The rangers noticed that she was very skinny and that her milk glands were swollen a lot. On closer inspection with binoculars they could see that she had suckle marks, so somewhere safe in a den is a few bundles of fluff. We don’t know where the den is, or how many cubs she’s got as she will keep them hidden for the next two months. We are keeping our fingers crossed that everything goes well with the little ones and that Shadow will raise them to adulthood. Salayexe is moving around a lot while scent marking all over her territory. She is also expanding her area a little bit. She is still looking very good and we all hope that she is pregnant. We also had some awesome sightings of Thandi and her male cub, Bahuti, who is so relaxed with the vehicles around him. He is such a lovely leopard to watch and he can keep you entertained for hours as he stalks everything that moves on land and in the water. Lamula was very active this month as we saw him quite a few times patrolling his borders and marking his territory. There is also a young, but smaller male leopard in his territory, but it doesn’t look as if this bothers him too much. Anderson, the male leopard, is also expanding his territory and by doing that he is expanding into both Tingana and Lamula’s territories. Tingana has got his hands full with Anderson on the one side and Lamula on the other side. The last thing that we need now is another male taking over from Tingana, as there are new cubs and more on the way that will be killed by any new male. Mvula is also expanding his territory from the east more west into Lamula and Tingana’s areas and he is still a big force to be reckoned with.
We had some very nice lion sightings this month! We saw a lot of the Styx pride, joined by the Nkuhuma male from time to time. During the last fight between the Nkuhuma male and the sub adult males of the Styx pride, one of the young males sustained an injury on his right front leg. You can see the puncture wounds that were made by the canines of the Nkuhuma male. Luckily the leg is not broken as he still puts pressure on it when he walks. Although it is swollen quite badly, I am sure it would heal. This just shows you that the Nkuhuma male means business and that he wants to take over the Styx pride. When two male lions fight, they will try to immobilize their opponent and the only way of doing this is to bite the legs and joints, or to get hold of the spine. One of the older lionesses in the pride also gave birth around the 15th of this month as she was seen with suckle marks. Now there is a twist in this fairytale as to who the father is… She mated with one of the Matimba males and also with the Nkuhuma male. Luckily we all know that the cubs are safe with the Matimba and Nkuhuma males, as both think it is their cubs. We haven’t seen any of the Tsalala or Breakaway prides this month, but we heard that the tailless female of the Tsalala pride has new cubs. We can’t wait for them to come to our area and show them off. The Majingi male lions were nowhere to be seen this month and all we had was a few distant calls echoing through the night. What a beautiful sound that is!
This month we had a breeding herd with many small calves that moved through our area and for the majority of the females, the 11 month pregnancy is now over. Now that the bush is so green and there is enough food and water for a few big herds, the buffaloes will stay in a certain area longer than when there is not an abundance of food. We still keep our fingers crossed that they will also bless us with their presence next month. All the bachelors that we had wandering around the last few months have now moved on, surely back to the big breeding herds. Our trusted old Dagga boys are still around, always close to a waterhole or mud wallow to keep them cool in the harsh African sun.
This month we had some scattered elephant sightings all over the reserve, as the majority of the breeding herds have moved more east, out of our traversing area. The sightings that we had were still really good with medium and small breeding herds. We were once again spoiled with the presence of a big male or two that moved around in our area. We also had a female group that suddenly became very vocal while their temporal glands on the side of their heads became wet. At that time it was unclear why they were so unhappy, until the branches started breaking! A young male elephant came bursting out of the thickets, with a big female hot in pursuit. Females will do that to let the young males know when they’ve overstayed their welcome. It was time for this young bull to leave the herd. One thing that is very noticeable during game drive is that the destruction on the trees is a lot less than in previous months.
The special sighting was to see a big male leopard and a hyena chasing the same baby impala, but from different angles. These two heavyweights did not know that they were stalking the same juvenile impala. With a burst of speed the leopard was off and so was the hyena. As both came around the corner the leopard saw the hyena and turned to the opposite direction. In the end the hyena walked away with the prize, as he had the stamina to outrun his prey. The leopard lived to hunt another day.
Did you know?
A bush baby is able to cover a distance of 10m in less than 5 seconds.
I hope you enjoyed this month’s report. See you out on game drive soon!
Wow! What happened to the year? At first we were counting down the days till we would receive our first cold winter spell. Then before you know it, the winter season has come and gone at lightning speed. Now summer is in full swing! You need to come and see for yourself how beautiful the area looks after all the rains we have received. Every day now you can see the vegetation becoming denser. Everything is brilliantly green, with bright flowers starting to bloom on some of the trees. With summertime, all the babies arrive. It seems to happen overnight! Most of the impala, zebra, giraffe, wildebeest and warthogs have little ones running around with them. All the attention seems to be set on the herbivores and their young. One can just drive a few hundred meters from camp and be entertained for hours on end. I was on drive again for a few days this past month and as always it was brilliant to be driving and to see all the new animals. To see baby animals take their first stand, or run for the first time is priceless. The funniest is to see a red billed oxpecker land on a baby herbivore for the first time – they get such a fright that they take off like a rocket! They have no idea yet why this feathered animal would land on their head and that it is actually a friend, only wanting to help rid them from all the parasites. The one morning drive my guests and I were almost lucky enough to see an impala giving birth, but she slowly walked into the tree line and disappeared to give birth in privacy. Some of our rangers were luckier, though. They saw a zebra giving birth on our open area in front of the lodge! Guests sometimes think that we see such amazing sightings every day. Well, we do get to see amazing sightings, but some of these sightings, like a zebra giving birth, we might only get to see once a year, or sometimes once in our lifetime. Most of the time it’s about being lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time. What a privilege.
Once a year we have a lady that comes and inspects the lodge. You might ask who and why? Well, Lisa Dunn is from the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa and her task is to come and check that our service and facilities are all up to standard and to find out what our plans for the new year might be. As most of you would know, Elephant Plains Game Lodge is a four star game lodge. I am proud to say that she did a thorough inspection of the lodge, from top to bottom and was very happy with what she saw. She mentioned that the lodge was very well kept and that the gardens were also looking great. There is a lot of planning and hard work that goes into the upkeep of a lodge, but we always do our best and it really makes you proud when someone notices this hard work. We are excited about a few minor changes that we are planning to make during next year. You will need to come and see for yourself what these changes are!
We will be seeing a new face around the lodge next month. Lanette van den Merwe has been appointed as our new Spa therapist, as we will be saying goodbye to Eve Viet. Eve has decided to go and work on a yacht out at sea and to travel the world. We wish her all the best with her new adventure! Lanette is from Johannesburg, but she wants to place her roots back into the African bush, where she loves to work and we are sure that she will learn to love Elephant Plains as much as we all do. We have also said goodbye to Marlé Erasmus who has decided to go back to Nelspruit where she can work closer to her family and friends. We are still looking for a lady to replace her and hopefully by next month we would have found the right person to take on the position for relief receptionist and accounting.
To all our guests who celebrated their birthdays this month, we hope you had a fantastic day filled with love and laughter. May your future hold many more happy and joyful days! We had only one staff member who celebrated her birthday this month. Feitah Mathebula has been working at Elephant Plains for the past nine years. She started as a cleaner, who then later took on the role of looking after Etienne Jnr. Now that he is all grown up, she is babysitting Martin. With her kind soul and big smile, she is helping to raise the kids at EP. We hope you had a wonderful day. May there be many more!
This month we placed the snap cam at Rampan. We got a nice photo of two small baboons in a tree and a hippo in the water.
I now hand you over to our Head Chef, Linda Van Heerden for her mouth watering recipe of the month. It is a Cranberry and Pecan Nut salad, ideal for those hot summer days under the African sun.
(serves 6 side servings)
Wholegrain Mustard Dressing
Bring the orange juice to the boil and pour over the cranberries. Set aside to cool down. Cut the pecan nuts into threes. Arrange the lettuce onto a platter. Then sprinkle the rehydrated cranberries and pecan nuts over this. Make the dressing by mixing the wholegrain mustard, olive oil and vinegar. Pour over the salad. Serve and enjoy!
Well! That’s all from my side this month. Have a good one!
Manager’s Report July 2013
With the longest night and the shortest day that passed in June already, we now ever so slowly lean towards springtime. With it comes the “four seasons in one day” with some mornings being misty and rainy, followed by strong winds. The moment the sun comes out from behind the clouds it is pleasantly warm, until late in the afternoons when the cold sets in yet again. But as each day moves into the next, the smile on my face broadens as we are clearly nearing spring and following that, summertime. Spring just makes the earth seem brand new; with new grass, leaves and newborn animals all around. In my opinion spring should be our New Year, as it symbolises a fresh, new start and the beginning of new life. The one benefit of winter is that the vegetation is flat and brittle, making life easier for the rangers and trackers, having to spot animals far off into the bush. Sightings wise, this month was off the records, as guests got to see lions on a few different kills, mating lions and mating leopards. They even saw leopards making kills while in the process of mating. But Morné can share more about this in his report. We had a lot of return guests this month, joining us for a second, third or even fourth time. We would like to thank you for supporting the lodge time and again. We hope that we will still see a lot more of you in the near future!
With the rainy season approaching, we brought in Patrick the TLB driver. He is fantastic at operating his machine. I am sure that if you were to ask him to do back flips with it, he would surely oblige! With most of the roads still in a good condition and only a few needed some TLC from the TLB. We cleaned out some of the mitre drains alongside the roads, repaired some of the humps and also filled some sections of road that had washed away. For six days we pushed as hard as we could to get everything done and then it started to rain, a whole 11 mm of soft winter rain. The next day I had a big smile on my face as I could take out the tractor and thumper to compact the sections of road that we had filled. Usually we need to take the water bowser to spray the roads first, but because Mother Nature had sorted that part out the previous day, so it wasn’t necessary. All the roads are now looking great. Bring on the rainy season, our roads are ready! We also got the TLB to also do a small amount of work on the waterhole in front of the Africam. We did not make the waterhole bigger, but just removed some of the soil that washed into it after the floods we had last year. We worked on the southern and eastern sides. Because the flood water moved over the entire waterhole, all the soil settled inside, leaving little space for actual water and causing it to dry up quickly. During this time of the year we have a lot of thirsty elephants that can quickly drain the entire waterhole in one go. The work that was done should ensure that more animals can utilize this precious source of water.
To all our guests who celebrated their birthdays this month, we hope you had a fantastic day filled with love and laughter. May your future hold many more happy and joyful days! We actually had a double barrel birthday on the 24th, being Linda and Dawie’s combined birthday. Linda, who I am sure you will recognise from all her monthly recipes, is our Head Chef. She is responsible for overseeing all the lovely meals at lodge. Dawie started at Elephant Plains as a junior ranger for two years. For the past eight months he has been thriving as a fulltime ranger. He is doing a fantastic job as ranger and one can clearly see the passion he has for the African bush. I hope you all had great birthdays, filled with lots of laughter and fun.
Marlet Swart wrote: “As it is a bit awkward for Wayne to congratulate himself on his birthday this month, I would like to add a big congratulations from all of us at EP! Wayne joined us in 2005. He worked himself up through the ranks from Ranger to Head Ranger and in 2011 we appointed him as General Manager. Wayne is one of the most hardworking guys I know. You will always find him walking through the lodge, checking up on this or that, or otherwise, fiddling with maintenance himself. No job is below him and through his work ethic and commitment to the lodge he has won a deep-earned respect and love from all his work colleagues. I daresay that he loves the lodge as much as Etienne and I do. We wish him a wonderful year. May he celebrate many more birthdays with us!”.
We have some more good news to share this month. Louis and Janine got engaged! As you know, Louis is one of our rangers and Janine is the friendly face you will see at reception. We would like to congratulate them on this great news and wish them the best for a very bright and happy future together.
Over the past few months we have been getting some great pictures of animals on the trap cam. As mentioned in last month’s report, the animals are now using the larger waterholes more often as most of the smaller pans have dried up. This leaves the larger waterholes with more traffic around them during the early mornings and late afternoons, allowing us to capture some great pictures of animals coming to quench their thirst. We get photos of a large selection of general game and this month I chose a photo of a herd of elephants, with their reflection in the water.
I now hand you over to our Head Chef Linda van Heerden, for the delicious recipe of the month. This month’s recipe is a traditional, sweet old favourite for South Africans.
(Makes 12 portions)
Cream the butter and the sugar together until the sugar is incorporated. Add the eggs and beat well. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt. Add this to the butter mix and beat until the dough comes together. Press into a well greased baking dish. Bake for approximately 2 minutes before resting it.
Heat the 750ml milk together with the butter and vanilla essence. Mix the corn flour and cake flour with the remaining milk. Mix the egg yolk and the sugar together. Once the milk is heated, mix the flour mixture into it. Then slowly add the warm mixture into the egg yolks, making sure not to curdle the eggs. Put the milk mixture back onto the stove, and bring to the boil, whisking continuously. The mixture will become thick. Remove from the heat and whisk the egg white to soft peaks. Gently fold this into the warm custard. Pour into the crust and bake at 160C for 30minutes. It will brown slightly on top and be a little wobbly in the middle. Remove to the fridge to set for 4 hours. Decorate with strawberries and sugar work.
Serve and enjoy!
Well, that’s all from my side this month. Have a good one!